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Intercostal pain: Is it cancer? (explanation)

La intercostal pain can be extremely disabling and anxiety-provoking. It is most often benign, but it can also be a sign of a more serious heart or lung disease.

This is why it is important to consult a health professional if you feel this type of pain. In this article, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of intercostal pain, as well as how to know if it is cancer.

Intercostal pain what is it?

La intercostal pain is a type of chest pain that occurs between the ribs. The intercostal muscles are located between the ribs and help support the chest wall. These muscles can be irritated or inflamed, causing pain.

intercostal neuralgia pain

Intercostal pain can be dull and aching or sharp and throbbing. It can also radiate to other parts of the body, such as the shoulder, neck or back. The intercostal pain is often aggravated by coughing, sneezing or deep breathing.

Intercostal anatomy

The intercostal muscles are a group of muscles located between the ribs. They are responsible for the movement of the chest wall and play an important role in breathing.

anatomy of the intercostal muscles

The intercostals are divided into three groups: the outer intercostals, the inner intercostals, and the innermost intercostals. The external intercostals are the largest and most superficial of the three groups.

They originate at the back of the sternum and attach to the ribs. The internal intercostals are located below the external intercostals and run in the opposite direction.

They originate at the level of the ribs and attach to the vertebrae. The intercostals the innermost are located below the internal intercostals and attach to both the ribs and the vertebrae. Together, these muscles help raise the rib cage during inspiration and to lower it during expiration.

Symptoms of intercostal pain

La intercostal pain can occur from coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any other type of sudden movement that puts pressure on the muscles.


The symptoms of intercostal pain include tenderness in the affected area, sharp stabbing pains and difficulty breathing.

The pain may get worse when you breathe deeply or cough. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the back or abdomen.

Causes of intercostal pain

There are a number of different causes of intercostal pain, and the precise nature of the pain can vary depending on the underlying cause.

In some cases the pain may be sharp and throbbing, while in others it is more of a dull ache. Intercostal pain is often exacerbated by movement or deep breathing, and it can make daily activities quite difficult. The causes of intercostal pain are:

  • Pulmonary embolism: A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that lodges in the lungs and can cause severe chest pain.
  • pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause chest pain and difficulty breathing.
  • Bronchitis : Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchial tubes that can produce a wide range of symptoms, including chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • Musculoskeletal problems: Problems such as costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs) or trauma to the ribs can cause intercostal pain.

Some potential causes include:

  • The aftermath of rib fracture : Rib fractures can often heal without complications, but in some cases they can lead to chronic pain.
  • Root compression by a Hodgkin's ganglion : Root compression by a Hodgkin's lymph node is a rare but serious condition that can cause severe pain.
  • La spondylodiscitis and Pott's disease : Spondylodiscitis is an infection of the spine, and the Pott's disease is a form of tuberculosis that affects the spine.
  • Neuroma and spinal cancer : Neuromas are tumors that grow on nerves, and spinal cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer.
  • myeloma : Myeloma is a type of cancer that affects the bones, and spinal collapse can occur when the bones in the spine collapse.

Intercostal pain and cancer: what is the link?

Although cancer is a rare cause of intercostal neuralgia, it is important to be aware of the potential link between these two conditions. There are several types of cancer that can invade or compress nerves in the chest, causing pain and other symptoms.

In some cases, neuralgia can be one of the first signs of cancer. If you experience persistent pain in the chest or back, it is important to explore.

When to worry

La chest pain can be caused by many different conditions, ranging from mild to potentially serious. Intercostal pain, or pain between the ribs, is often caused by muscle tension or inflammation of the nerves and muscles in this area.

However, it can also be the symptom of more serious conditions, such as lung cancer. Cancerous tumors can grow anywhere in the body and compress or invade nearby structures, including the ribs.

Tumors that grow in the lungs often cause pain when pressing on the ribs. The pain may worsen with deep breaths, coughing, or changes in position.


La early detection and treatment of cancer are essential to obtain the best possible result. Although intercostal neuralgia can be a painful and debilitating condition, treatment is available and most people recover completely.


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