Intercostal muscle strain can be a painful side effect of an intense workout, especially if you’re new to the world of fitness. It can also be a side effect of sleeping incorrectly and can lead to sleeping difficulties. For example, if your intercostal muscles are strained, it can make it difficult for you to lie on your side and increase discomfort. Intercostal muscle strain is experienced by many individuals who overexert their pectoral muscles and/or intercostal muscles.
Oftentimes, as with most muscle strains, it is caused by improper form while exercising and not stretching before or after the activity. The pain associated with intercostal muscle strain typically becomes more noticeable when attempting to take deep breaths or when lying on one side and may cause difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep due to pain.
What Are Intercostal Muscles?
Intercostal muscles are a group of muscles located in your rib cage and are responsible for lifting your ribs. This allows for more efficient breathing, since air can flow more freely through your lungs when your ribs are lifted. These muscles are made up of both long and short muscles. Intercostal muscles are especially necessary when lifting heavy weights or engaging in any other strenuous physical activity. When lifting anything heavy, these muscles are responsible for lifting your ribs and keeping them lifted to allow for optimal breathing and a strong, efficient heartbeat.
Ways to Sleep Better
Change Your Position
One of the easiest ways to manage intercostal muscle strain is by changing your position while you sleep. Sleep on your side instead of your back as this position is more comfortable and supportive for your intercostal muscles. You can also try sleeping on your back with a pillow between your knees to relieve the strain on your ribs which may prevent further discomfort, although will not rid the strain altogether. Another option is to sleep in a reclining chair as this may relieve certain areas of the body and so if you are experiencing a lot of pain, sleeping in a recliner may be more comfortable than sleeping in a bed.
Use a Pillow To Support Your Ribs
When you sleep on your side, use a pillow between your arm and your ribs. This will support your ribs and prevent them from being compressed by your arm. If you are a side sleeper then use a pillow between your knees as this supports your knees and takes pressure off your ribs. If however, you sleep on your back then consider tucking a pillow between your lower legs and upper torso to relieve the intercostal muscle strain.
Exercise & Breathing Exercises
Regularly doing breathing exercises and engaging in light physical activity can help with the healing process of intercostal muscle strain. You can do some simple breathing exercises to help relieve pain and decrease your stress levels. These breathing exercises will help increase your oxygen intake and help you rest better.
First and foremost is in deep breathing, its an easy one to get right so consider sitting upright, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this process for 5-10 minutes a day to reduce pain and calm the nerves.
Second up is abdominal breathing. Put one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, to the count of 5, and slowly exhale through your mouth for 5 seconds. This can be done for 5-10 minutes a day to help reduce pain caused by intercostal muscle strain.
Thirdly we have meditation. This is a great way to relieve stress and get a good night’s sleep. You can try guided meditation or even self-guided meditation to calm your mind and help you sleep better.
Finally we have yoga. Yoga poses such as downward facing dog, the boat pose, and the child’s pose are especially helpful for those who are experiencing pain in these areas.
After a few days of resting, you can try some light self-massage to ease the pain. You can use a tennis ball, small foam roller, or other massage tool to massage the tender ribs yourself, or if you have a friend or partner you could ask them to massage the area for further comfort and relief. This can be a relaxing way to release tension while also providing some temporary relief from discomfort. If you find the tennis ball or roller unsuitable you can also ask your doctor about using a massage ball which is specially designed for self-massage and can be used to apply pressure to the intercostal muscles.
Hot Bath With Epsom Salt
Soothe your tender ribs with a hot bath infused with Epsom salts. Epsom salts are magnesium salts that are therapeutic and helpful for easing muscle pain. You can also add some lavender essential oil to your bath to increase relaxation. Baths are a great way to take care of your muscles and ease pain. For best results, soak in your bath for at least 20 minutes to maximise relief.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to consult your doctor to confirm that your symptoms are caused by intercostal muscle strain. If your doctor confirms this diagnosis, be sure to follow their recommendations for treatment and implement the tips listed above for sleeping so you can get a better night’s sleep.