How long does intercostal pain last? (explanations)

hourglass showing the time that has passed since back pain

La intercostal neuralgia is a condition that can cause great pain in the chest area. Unfortunately, many people don't know how to properly treat this condition, which can often last for weeks or even months.

In this article, we will discuss the causes of intercostal neuralgia, as well as the best ways to deal with it. We hope this information helps ease your pain!

Reminder: What is a intercostal pain ?

A intercostal pain affects the intercostal nerves and can cause severe pain in the chest area.

The intercostal nerves are a group of nerves that run along the ribs. They are responsible for providing sensations to the skin and muscles of the chest and help regulate the respiratory process. The intercostal nerves are born from spinal cord and pass into the spaces between the ribs. They are divided into two groups: intercostal nerves most internal and intercostal nerves the most external.

The intercostal nerves the innermost ones are located closest to the spine, while the outermost are located closest to the surface of the skin.

Each group of nerves innervates a different layer of muscle tissue. The intercostal nerves the innermost ones innervate the inner layer of the muscle, while the intercostal nerves the outer ones innervate the outer layer of the muscle.

The muscle tissue between these two layers is innervated by both groups of nerves. In addition to providing sensations to the skin, the intercostal nerves also help regulate the respiratory process by sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Causes and symptoms of intercostal pain

When muscles and ribs are irritated or inflamed, it can be very painful. Several reasons can explain this phenomenon called intercostal pain (or intercostal neuralgia).

These include cracked or fractured ribs, nerve degeneration and abdominal distension. In some cases, the pain can be caused by osteoarthritis of the spine, which results in the inflammation of a nerve.

In addition, pregnancy can often contribute to intercostal neuralgia, because the rib cage expands during this period.

The symptoms of this condition are as follows:

  • Pain in the ribs,
  • numbness and tingling,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Loss of appetite and fever.

In some cases, the pain may also spread to the arms and shoulders. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to see a doctor so they can properly diagnose and treat your condition.

How long does a intercostal pain ?

Although it is difficult to establish an exact prognosis, it is believed that the intercostal neuralgia usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks. Obviously, the duration of the intercostal pain can vary greatly depending on the condition of the patient.

In some cases, the pain may only last a few days, while in others it may persist for weeks or even months. In general, there are two main prognoses that can affect the duration of the intercostal pain : favorable and unfavorable. 

A favorable prognosis means that the patient is likely to make a full recovery and suffer little or no long-term effects from the injury. In most cases, patients with a favorable prognosis recover from a intercostal pain in a few days or weeks. For example :

  1. A sports injury, such as a sprain or strain.
  2. A fall or other accident resulting in broken ribs.
  3. Degeneration of the intercostal nerve, as in the case of osteoarthritis, once the inflammatory phase has passed.
  4. Pregnancy, which can often lead to inflammation of the ribs.

An unfavorable prognosis means that the patient is likely to suffer long-term complications or lasting damage from the injury. Patients with a poor prognosis may experience persistent pain and other symptoms that persist for months. Here are some examples :

  1. A prolonged, untreated infection, such as tuberculosis or herpes zoster (shingles).
  2. Cancer that affects the chest area or ribs.
  3. repeated episodes of intercostal neuralgia due to compression of the nerve roots.
  4. Abdominal distension, which can put pressure on the nerves in the rib cage.
  5. Severe obesity, which can also put pressure on the nerves in the rib cage.

Support for a intercostal pain : What to do ?

Management intercostal pain can be a difficult and frustrating task. There are many potential causes of intercostal pain, and the most effective therapeutic approach may vary depending on the cause in question.

Therefore, it is often necessary to consult several specialists in order to develop an effective treatment plan.

Intercostal pain : Who to consult?

According to the alleged cause of the intercostal pain, consultation with a primary care physician, orthopedist, neurologist, or rheumatologist may be recommended.

In some cases, referral to a pain specialist may also be warranted. A thorough evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is essential to determine the most appropriate management strategy.

Here are the most recommended specialists:


Radiologists are experts in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the lungs and chest. They can help identify the cause of the pain and recommend the best possible treatment. 


Pulmonologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases. They can help determine if the pain is caused by a lung condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment.


Cardiologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. They can help determine if the pain is caused by a heart problem and prescribe the appropriate treatment.


Neurologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect the nervous system. They can help determine if the pain is caused by a nervous system problem and recommend the best treatment. 


The physiotherapists are experts in the rehabilitation of patients with musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. They can help relieve pain through exercises and other treatments.

Intercostal pain : How to relieve?

There is no single answer to the question of how to reduce a intercostal pain. However, there are a number of therapies that can relieve symptoms. It starts with a consultation with a health professional to clarify the diagnosis and guide the treatment.

Besides medical approaches, some people turn to alternative medicine for symptom relief. We are thinking in particular of herbal medicine.  

Phytotherapy, what is it?

Herbal medicine is a form of medicine that uses plant extracts to treat various medical conditions. Although theefficacy of herbal medicine for the treatment of intercostal pain has not been conclusively proven, there is some evidence that it may be effective.

St. John's wort

A plant that has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of intercostal pain is Hypericum perforatum, also known as St. John's wort.

This herb has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which can help relieve pain associated with intercostal neuralgia.

Additionally, St. John's Wort is known for its antidepressant effects, which may help reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being in people with dementia. intercostal pain.


Lavender is another herb that has been used in the treatment of intercostal pain. Lavender is a calming herb that has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels.

It can be used as an essential oil or as a dried herb that can be brewed into a tea. Both forms of lavender are considered useful in relieving the symptoms of intercostal neuralgia.

Although the use of phytotherapy for the treatment of intercostal neuralgia has not been conclusively proven, there is some evidence that it may be effective. Most people who have found relief from their intercostal pain through herbal medicine report that using a combination of different herbs, such as Arnica montana and Hypericum perforatum, has been very helpful to them. 

In addition, here is a non-exhaustive list of plants and essential oils effective in controlling pain and inflammation. The products are available on the site Country. Use promo code LOMBAFIT15 if you wish to obtain one of the following products, or any remedy aimed at relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life:

  • Turmeric. Thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers very powerful, turmeric is one of the most used plants in a culinary and therapeutic context. The composition of turmeric is essentially made of essential oils, vitamins (B1, B2, B6, C, E, K) and trace elements. But it is to its composition rich in curcumin and curcuminoids that we owe them and calm skin of this spice.
  • Ginger. In addition to the special flavor it brings to the kitchen and its aphrodisiac properties, ginger is a root well known for its anti-inflammatory powers. the gingerol gives it its anti-inflammatory action. It is an active component acting on the inflammatory pain related to chronic joint inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rheumatic diseases, etc. It has been proven that this active element is also effective in acting on the inflammation linked to arthritis and sciatica. Ginger also has other benefits thanks to its high potassium content and its richness in trace elements (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium) and vitamins (provitamin and vitamin B9).
  • Omega-3s. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a very important role in the functioning of our body. They are provided by food in three natural forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Beyond their action on the brain and the cardiovascular system, omega-3s prove very effective against inflammation. Indeed, they have the ability to act on the inflammatory mechanisms in osteoarthritis by slowing down cartilage destruction, thus they reduce the intensity of osteoarthritis pain. Sciatica, being most often linked to an inflammation secondary to a herniated disc, it can also respond to omega-3 provided it is consumed regularly. 
  • Lemon eucalyptusEucalyptus is a plant most often used in the form of herbal tea or essential oil. She would have anti-inflammatory effects which give it the ability to act on the bone and joint pain in general and the pain of sciatica in particular.
  • wintergreen. Wintergreen is a shrub from which a very interesting essential oil is extracted. It is one of the most used essential oils in aromatherapy. This oil extracted from the shrub bearing the same name, is used in massage to relieve sciatica and act like a analgesic. Indeed, it provides a heating effect thanks to its ability toactivate blood circulation locally.

Others find that using lavender oil or tea relieves their symptoms. If you suffer from intercostal pain, you may consider trying herbal medicine as a possible treatment option. Be sure to tell your doctor to avoid drug interactions and to make sure there are no contraindications.

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