Asthma UK community forum

Intercostal muscle strain

Hi Everyone

I was diagnosed with this last friday by my gp, who said it was caused by coughing, just wondering if anyone else has ever had this before? my gp told me it would take 2 weeks to get better, but didn't sign me off work even though Im in so much pain and work with kids. He gave me codine to take which helps but i've heard is addictive so trying not to take it for to long.

was also wondering if anyone know's how long this type of injury takes to get better?

will be going back to gp if no better in 2 weeks


9 Replies

I have had lower rib/muscle pain too and it is not easy. I'm sure others here have mentioned sore ribs etc too from coughing. It can take some time to settle esp if asthma still causing problems.

Please try not to worry about codeine, it can be addictive but more if taking in high doses over some time. I did have it for some time after ENT surgery and had no problems particularly, in fact it helped with lactose intolerance effects, you may find you need to keep up fibre intake.



Oh yes, I have had this, and I have massive sympathy for you as it is rubbish. My GP said it was normally an overuse injury in sport but in my case breathing seemed to count as overuse! Think it was bad for a week or two, flared up periodically afterwards when breathing got bad but crossed fingers it's settled down now as I am having a bad patch asthma-wise but so far ribs have been very well-behaved - before they would twinge at the slightest opportunity?

EDIT as it seems this could sound like I'm recommending medication... you know yourself what you can have, this is just what worked for me personally. By 'other painkillers' I mean the ones you've been prescribed.

I'm almost certain the answer will be no, but can you take ibuprofen? If you can it worked well for me; if not other painkillers should also be good if they normally work, and should settle things down reasonably quickly. Really hope it goes soon though as it's no fun at all esp. if you have a fairly active job!


it's very dangerous to recommend the use of other pain killers as we are unable to know if lejaya is on any other Meds which could interact badly with these... Plus the use of ibuprofen should only be recommended by a dr .. This is due to effects this has on asthma ... Only advice we can give I's how likely it can last for , to continue with the medication recommended by your dr and if symptoms don't improve or get worse then seek further medical attention ..


Hi, I use heat pads and water bottle and tens machine as carnt take anti inflam's.You would need ask your doc or physio if a tens is ok for you as not suitable for some medical problems.Heat pads last 12 hours and give gental relief and doctor and pharmacy say ok for Asthmatics xxx


Gussypoo, I see your point and sorry if it came across that way but I was not recommending ibuprofen, just saying that I took it and it worked for me. However, I am well aware that many others especially asthmatics cannot have it so I'm not saying 'take it'. Just saying that if Lejaya felt, knowing her own situation and meds and perhaps asking her dr, that she could in fact have it, it might work. I would never tell someone to take something outright like that as since you say, not a good idea (although I'd generally hope people would be aware that what is ok for one person is not for another and that posts on here are not medical advice so they should be cautious anyway); again, apologies if that's how it seemed.


thank you for all the replys, I went to hospital last night because the pain was so bad i could hardly move, which was partly due to one of the kids running into me at work! and the doctor gave me tramadol which has worked wonders! and he also told me to go back to my gp in a week and have an x ray if pain is still bad, but hopefully it will be better by then.

The doctor suggested ibuprofen but then changed his mind due to me having asthma so he instead gave me tramadol.



Hi lejaya,

yes, it's an awful pain indeed!! Been there myself and as a physio myself I discovered a brilliant exercise that gets rid of the pain fairly quickly:

it's just important that you do the exercise in a comfortable range of movement and don't push into any pain!!

Sit on a chair/bed, cross your arms and gently turn to the left until you feel a pull or tightness(no pain!!), then stop and gently ""rock"" into that pull/tightness x10. Do the same to your right side.

If rib pain is above breast high cross arms and hold shoulder high, if rib pains below breasts cross arms in front of belly.

Don't exceed x10 each side, little and often is better, it's ok to do this once every hour.

It's worked wonders for me:-)

good luck and hope pains settle soon.

Love Lydia xx


I have this on an ongoing basis (upwards of 4 years) they have suggested that I tore muscles in my ribs and they won't repair as I can't rest them (due to breathing!) and the continual coughing I have. That's prob the worst case scenario though.

Like others said hot and cold packs and painkillers help. I also found that rather than waiting till it's really sore take something when the pain starts to try and stop it. Also I arrange pillows into a triangle shape to sleep and that really helps! You can get something called biofreeze in the chemist and I found this more helpful than the anti inflammatory gels, although the serious cold might just distract from pain!

It's horrible and you have my sympathy!


Hi Sarah

you have my sympathy to, what a long time to be in so much pain for, how awful for you, it's such a difficult injury to rest isn't it. I also have a persistant cough have had it for ages now which makes the pain even worse! but i'm finding the tramadol the hospital gave me seems to work really well and will also be trying some of the physio excersises that lydia suggested, i've heard they also work really well. hopefully will be pain free soon!


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