Rib pain from coughing usually comes if you had a heavy cold that has lasted for a few days. It’s because excessive or chronic coughing exhausts the intercostal muscles, which are the muscles in between your ribs.
Rib Pain When Coughing Causes
Rib pain can be particularly felt on coughing as the underlying and surrounding structures are involved in the coughing mechanism and may move while coughing. Rib pain when coughing can be sharp, dull, acute or long standing and may differ in its presentation. Excessive coughing for whatever reason uses a lot of the muscles in the rib cage and an extended episode of coughing can put those muscles under a lot of strain.
There are many issues that can cause pain in ribs when coughing or sneezingbut some of the causes are interconnected.
You can strain the muscles around the rib area due to coughing, which strains the intercostal muscles. But, there are other muscles in that area that can also be strained and contribute to the possible rib cage pain.
Symptoms of intercostal muscle strain include:
- Pain: You may feel a sharp pain at the time of injury, or it may come on more gradually. The pain will get worse when you twist, stretch, breathe in deeply, cough, or sneeze.
- Tenderness: The area of the strain between your ribs will be sore to the touch.
- Difficulty breathing: Because it’s so painful to breathe, you may find yourself taking small, shallow sips of air. This can leave you short of breath.
- Swelling: A partially torn or strained muscle will become inflamed. You may see some swelling between and around the affected ribs.
- Muscle tightness: The injured muscles may feel tight when you breathe, reach, or twist.
Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis
Joint issues like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can cause rib pain. Extra pressure and strain on that area due to coughing can cause pain in the joints of your chest and rib area.
Inflamed Cartilage (Costochondritis)
Costochondritis is the inflammation of the cartilage which joins the ribs to other bony structures. Sneezing and coughing can put more stress on the inflamed cartilage causing more pain in the ribs.Cartilage connects your ribs to the rest of your body. If cartilage becomes inflamed and irritated due to constant and forceful coughing, it can cause the rib area to be sore and tender during a cough.
If you have injured ribs, they are most likely going to hurt when you cough. You can also injure your ribs from forceful coughing.
There is a two-layered membrane that covers your lungs called the pleura. The pleura can become inflamed, and occasionally, there can be a buildup of fluid caused by excessive coughing (among other things). This condition is called pleurisy, and it too can become a source of rib pain while coughing.
Infections and a few lung disorders can cause the body to create extra mucus in the lungs that is thick in consistency. The body will try and expel the mucus through forceful coughing, which can often lead to rib pain.
Bronchitis causes a cough that often brings up mucus, as well as shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness.
Parapneumonic Effusion and Empyema
If an abnormal amount of fluid accumulates in pleura space (which could happen as a result of infection), the lungs cannot function as well as they should, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain.
Treatment for Rib Pain When Coughing
Treatment of rib pain due to coughing should begin at the earliest based on the diagnosis, the selected treatment include:
- anti-inflammatory medications
- Ice packs to the affected area may be advised to facilitate healing.
- Over-the-counter pain killers
- Breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises can also be a form of meditation to reduce stress.
- lidocaine and corticosteroids to reduce pain and swelling.
- nerve block injections
- Try to rest the area of the affected muscle by minimizing movement in that area.
- Get medication to treat the cough. Depending on the type of cough you have, you may either be prescribed a cough suppressant or an expectorant. There are also lozenges available to soothe the tickle in the throat that causes the cough.
- drink plenty of water (to flush it out, and helps get rid of the mucus quickly)
- Relieving the congestion and mucus can help reduce a cough. Steam can help relieve some of the coughing as well as thin the mucus that can cause a cough to occur.
How to Stop Ribs Hurting from Coughing
- warm up well before sports or exercise
- Avoid taking hot baths or applying heating pads to the area.
- Avoid alcohol
- Try not to massage pain area. Massage may worsen the injury.
When You Should Worry about the Rib Pain?
Some rib pain while coughing is no cause for concern, but when it is occurring with certain other symptoms there is cause for alarm. if the pain hasn’t subsided after a week or two, or if it’s getting worse, then you’ll need to see a physician to rule out a serious disease. If you notice any of the following symptoms along with your coughing and rib pain, seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Sputum that contains blood
- An increase in the shortness or shallowness of breaths you are taking
- A cough that produces yellow or green mucous
- Pain in chest
- Abdominal pain, pain in your shoulder and back rib pain
- You are out of breath quite suddenly.
- If you have a pre-existing medical condition concerning weakened bones like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. The sore ribs while coughing can be due to cracked ribs.
- If you have an infection like pleurisy, you need medication to clear the infection to prevent any long-term adverse effects.
- Persistent pain of the rib cage that doesn’t subside with rest and mild painkillers.
This symptom may indicate a chest infection or a broken rib has damaged your lung, causing the lung to collapse (pneumothorax) or injuring another organ, such as the liver or spleen. Pain that radiates towards the left jaw or shoulder is a sign of a heart attack and should be taken very seriously.