Pain in the ribs when coughing: causes and ways to deal with it. (2023)

Pain in the ribs when coughing: causes and ways to deal with it. (1)Rib pain when coughing can have a variety of causes. This type of pain can be an indication of a serious problem, or something that heals as easily as resting a tight muscle. What's important is that you know more about what can be causing it, when to see a doctor, and what to expect in terms of treatment. What you shouldn't do is assume that it will go away on its own.

(Video) Rib Pain from Coughing: Causes & Treatments

What Causes Rib Pain When Coughing?

  1. Severe cough or muscle tension

The simplest reason you might have rib pain is just the force of the cough. It's easy to forget that the ribs house a complex set of muscles that help with everything to do with breathing. These include breathing and coughing. The intercostal muscles are the muscles that are located along the ribs and are easy to stretch with a strong cough, in addition, the diaphragmatic muscle is involved.

The involvement of the muscles doesn't end there, those of the neck and back also work to cause the chest to rise and open to enlarge the chest cavity. It is the negative pressure created by this movement that draws air into the lungs, which is coughed up. The keyword is print, and there's a lot of that. All of this is also controlled by the voice and larynx muscles; They act like a valve to let in and out strong air pressure. All of this can quickly tire your muscles and cause tension that you experience as rib pain.

  1. Costochondritis (inflamed cartilage)

Cartilage connects the bones. When the cartilage that connects the ribs to other bones becomes inflamed from overuse or injury, it's called constochondritis. Pain and tenderness in this area are common, but when coughing, the pain is much more extreme.

(Video) The Best Stretches to Relieve Rib Pain from Non-Stop Coughing

The pain you will feel as a symptom of this condition is usually located on the left side of the breastbone. It can be a dull, constant ache, but deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing can cause multiple rib pains at once.

  1. injury or overuse

Rib injuries can happen very easily. Your rib bone may be broken or injured, you may also sprain, sprain or tear the muscles and tendons surrounding your ribs. Sometimes overuse of muscles can also lead to bone damage, and that's just a double whammy.

One of the classic signs of a rib injury is when you feel like you're just gasping for air. As part of your recovery, you need to take deep breaths. This is the only way to prevent the development of lung and lung infections, since you need to clean the chest from mucus. Another thing to expect is swelling, bruising, and general tenderness in the area.

(Video) Can a Cough Lead to Prolonged and Severe Muscle Pain?

  1. Common Conditions

Osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and other degenerative joint diseases can cause rib pain, especially when coughing. The cartilage that connects the ribs to other bones is also an important part of the flexibility and movement of the rib region. When it becomes inflamed or begins to degenerate, the pain is usually intense. There may also be spots where the rib area feels stiff and coughing can be painful.

  1. Pleurisy

Another common cause is pleurisy. This is caused by inflammation of the pleura (the two-layer membrane lining the lungs), and fluid can also collect between the membranes.

It is experienced by sharp pain when breathing, usually on one side, and severe pain when coughing, moving, bending over, or sneezing. The pain often radiates to the shoulder. Shallow breathing can relieve pain. Other important symptoms of pleurisy are shallow breathing and a very dry cough. The body tries to clean the lungs when it's not the lungs, but the fluid in the membrane is causing the problem.


  1. Other infections and lung diseases

If you have rib pain from coughing, it could be a sign of an infection or lung disease. The most common is pneumonia. The thick phlegm that builds up in the lungs requires coughing to get it out, but it is so thick that the stress of coughing overloads the ribs and causes pain.

Asthma, bronchitis, and COPD can also contribute to rib pain.

when to worry

Some pain in the ribs when coughing is not a cause for concern, but if it occurs along with another symptom, it is a cause for concern. If you notice any of the following symptoms along with cough and rib pain, see a doctor as soon as possible.

(Video) Reasons why your chest hurt while coughing - Dr. Durgaprasad Reddy B

  • An increase in the lack or depth of your breaths
  • Rib or chest pain that is becoming more frequent or severe
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain or shoulder pain
  • sputum with blood
  • A cough that produces yellow or green phlegm.
  • Fever

All of these are warning signs that you may be in imminent danger. These signs, in any combination and not all of them, may mean you have a serious lung infection or a broken rib. A broken rib can be deadly as it can cause a lung to collapse or a major organ to be punctured. Get help right away if you have rib pain when you cough and have any of these symptoms.

How to deal with rib pain caused by coughing

  • Once the cause of your rib pain is identified, a treatment plan will be prescribed. Depending on whether it is an infection or not, you may need to do thismedicine. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to thin your mucus so you don't have to cough as hard.
  • Rest and freeze the area.can also be called. It's important to follow your doctor's orders during recovery. If you have rib damage and are still coughing, you may be advised to hold a pillow against your ribs while coughing to reduce movement of the injured bone.
  • complete bed restit is typical of broken ribs as they cannot be put in a cast and need to be moved so you can breathe. Your doctor may also prescribe you a pain reliever and/or pain reliever. The type of treatment you receive depends on the diagnosis of the cause of your pain.

what others have experienced

"When I was pregnant with my first child, I felt pain in my ribs every time I coughed and I couldn't seem to take a deep breath without pain. Everyone around me told me not to worry and that it was just pleurisy. I didn't want to risk anything, so I went to the emergency room. They were worried about a clot in my lungs, so they did x-rays and other tests to make sure everything was fine. It was okay but I'm glad I went. What I was told that might be causing my rib pain when I cough was not to be taken lightly. It could have been a life threatening condition for me and the baby."

"I made the mistake of deciding my rib pain was just muscle pain and all I needed was an aspirin. When I decided to go to the doctor, the pain was so bad I could barely walk or breathe. It turned out he didn't have a muscle strain, he had three broken ribs and pleurisy. The doctor got angry. If I had left sooner it wouldn't have ended up in such a bad state. I am now on bed rest no lifting or driving for 3 weeks. If she had waited longer, she would have gotten pneumonia, she said. I didn't know it could be that serious, but now I know. ”

(Video) Why am I getting pain over the SIDE of my RIBS?


What does it mean if you cough and your ribs hurt? ›

When you've got rib pain from coughing too much, this repeated movement, particularly if it's frequent and forceful, could result in a pulled muscle causing pain or sore ribs. A cold can also cause pleuritis, which is inflammation of the lining of your lungs and the inner aspect of your chest wall (called pleura).

How long does it take for rib muscles to heal from coughing? ›

The average intercostal muscle strain takes about four to five weeks to heal, but the healing process may be shorter or longer depending on the severity of the strain.

How long does it take ribs to heal from coughing? ›

Usually, broken ribs heal on their own in about six weeks. Pain control is important for being able to breathe deeply and avoid lung issues, such as pneumonia.

What is the fastest way to heal intercostal muscle strain? ›

  1. Applying an ice pack or cold pack, followed by heat therapy. ...
  2. Resting and limiting all physical activity for a few days to allow time for the muscle strain to recover.
  3. Taking pain medications to reduce swelling and pain. ...
  4. Splinting the area if breathing is painful by holding a pillow against the injured muscle.

Can severe coughing damage your ribs? ›

Severe or prolonged coughing can also cause bruised ribs. A rib bruise due to a blunt force may cause bleeding and injury to the tissues under the skin. Depending on the force of the blow, you may have other injuries, such as broken ribs or damage to the lungs, liver, spleen or kidney.

When should I be concerned about rib pain? ›

A person should always consult a doctor in any case of unexplained rib cage pain. If the pain or pressure in the chest is severe and breathing becomes difficult, a person should seek emergency medical treatment, as these symptoms could indicate a heart attack.

How can I speed up my rib recovery? ›

Gentle exercise for broken ribs can also help to clear your mind and prevent depression or anxiety from developing. Breathing exercises are the main type of rehab, but chest-stretching exercises for broken ribs are effective as well. Each type should be done slowly and gently, with a gradual increase as you heal.

What damage can you do by coughing too hard? ›

Prolonged, vigorous coughing can irritate the lungs and cause even more coughing. It is also exhausting and can cause sleeplessness, dizziness or fainting, headaches, urinary incontinence, vomiting, and even broken ribs.

Can coughing cause a pulled rib muscle? ›

Many activities can cause a pull to the intercostal muscles such as straining while twisting, repetitive motions or falling but one of the most common reasons for straining the muscles around the ribs, especially in seniors, is coughing or sneezing. The location of the pain can vary anywhere along the rib cage.

Can a rib be dislocated from coughing? ›

Causes of a Rib Subluxation

Extreme sneezing or coughing – Excessive or severe coughing such as is associated with bronchitis or pneumonia puts a great deal of strain on the ribcage. However, even coughing due to a common cold can add enough stress to cause the rib to dislocate.

Is a heating pad good for broken ribs? ›

Applying heat would increase circulation to the injury site, and bring about the inflammatory properties that aim to heal the tissues. Moreover, heat can reduce muscle stiffness, and encourage movement. Is heat good for the healing of a broken bone? The answer is yes in the later stages of healing.

Will a heating pad help bruised ribs? ›

Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, put a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth on your chest. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold.

What medication is used for intercostal muscle strain? ›

Anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen) can help reduce painful inflammation in injured muscles. Additionally, pain relievers (such as acetaminophen) can interfere with pain signals sent to the brain and minimize overall pain levels.

Is walking good for intercostal muscle strain? ›

Gentle exercise is recommended, such as walking. Apply ice to the area for 5-10 minutes at a time three to five times per day. Remember to wrap the ice in a towel to prevent getting frostbite. Do this for one to two days after the injury or until the swelling and pain has subsided.

Can coughing cause torn rib cartilage? ›

When a rib tears away from the cartilage, the injury is called a costochondral separation. It may result from a blow to the ribs, a fall, or landing hard on your feet. It might even be caused by forceful coughing or sneezing.

What medicine helps rib pain? ›

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) may be helpful. Topical pain relievers. These include creams, gels, patches and sprays. They may contain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or numbing medications.

Should I go to ER for rib pain? ›

With any rib cage pain, if you can't breathe, your skin turns blue or you have severe chest pain, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

What does a strained rib muscle feel like? ›

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.

How do you tell if you have a cracked rib or pulled muscle from coughing? ›

If you touch the spot where your rib is broken, it will hurt more. Your chest will hurt more when you take a deep breath. The pain will get worse if you twist your body. Coughing or laughing will cause pain.


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