Intercostal Muscle Strain

Looking for relief from debilitating pain? Our team of chiropractors and massage therapists are on hand to help, so get in touch today via or on +44 (0)20 7374 2272.

Get Seen Today – Check Availability Now


The thoracic spine consists of twelve vertebrae which each connect to a pair of ribs. The upper seven ribs are connected directly to the chest bone/sternum and are termed true ribs, whereas the lower five ribs do not attach directly to the sternum and are defined false ribs.


The intercostal muscles consist of several groups of muscles (internal and external intercostals and subcostal and transverse thoracic muscles) which are located between the ribs and function to move and stabilise the chest wall.

These muscles can become strained, often as a result of rapid twisting of the torso, and are common in sports such as basketball and tennis.

Muscle strains have three gradings:

  • Grade I Strain: this is a mild strain and only some muscle fibers have been damaged. Healing occurs within two to three weeks.
  • Grade II Strain: this is a moderate strain with more extensive damage to muscle fibers, but the muscle is not completely ruptured. Healing occurs within three to six weeks.
  • Grade III Strain: this is a severe injury with a complete rupture of a muscle. This typically requires a surgical repair of the muscle; the healing period can be up to three months.

Symptoms commonly reported are either sharp, stabbing pains when breathing to an ever-present, painful ache or soreness located around the ribcage. The pain is aggravated by deep breathing, side bending and twisting.

The degree of disability, along with the rate of recovery, will depend on the grade of the muscle strain. Given above is a general guideline as to the rate of recovery from a muscle strain per se, however, the healing time may be longer due to our constant need to breathe and, therefore, low grade irritation to the healing site.

(The list of conditions given above and subsequent explanations are intended as a general guide and should not be considered a replacement for a full medical examination. Furthermore, we do not purport to treat all the conditions listed. Should you wish to discuss any of these conditions with our chiropractors, please do not hesitate to phone the clinic on 020 7374 2272 or email


Our team of chiropractors and massage therapists are on hand to answer any questions you may have, so get in touch today via or on +44 (0)20 7374 2272.

Get Seen Today – Check Availability Now

Related Articles

Improper versus against proper lifting ,illustration,vector

Are You Lifting Properly?

Lifting  This blog is aimed at those of you who may do lots of lifting day to day – be it lifting boxes at work, bricks on a building site, weights in the gym or even just lifting your kids up in the evening. We all do it but are we doing it properly? You’ve… Read more »

Standing Desks to Reduce Low Back Pain

Standing Desks: Standing Vs Sitting When at Work We all know that sitting for long periods at a time, day after day, is not good for our backs. However, some of us have little choice in the matter and the jobs we are in don’t allow us to move around. A recent survey found that… Read more »

DIfference Between a Chiropractor and Osteopath

Other than the classic, “chiropractic? Er, isn’t that feet?”, normally accompanied with a distinct look of disdain, the most frequently asked question chiropractors come across is, “what’s the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?” In fact, only the other day I was having my haircut and got asked that very question. Anyway, I digress…. Read more »