Pain From A Displaced Rib, Intercostal Neuralgia. Westminster, CO

Have you ever experienced pain between the shoulder blades or sharp stabbing pain in your chest and rib cage area? Symptoms of intercostal neuralgia typically begin between the shoulder blades more often on one side only. The pain is described as deep and achy around the shoulder blade area which gets much worse with deep breathing and activities that involve your upper back and shoulders. Sometimes the pain is very sharp and stabbing.

If you are patient that went online to research this, WebMD probably told you to go to the emergency room because you were near death. Over the years, this is happened with several of my patients thinking they were having symptoms of heart disease and/or a heart attack.  After numerous tests and consultations, nothing medically wrong is found. You are released from the emergency room and told that all the tests are negative and your heart is fine. After a $15,000 hospital bill and a prescription for Percocet, you still have rib and chest pain.

So what is happening? How do you explain this uncomfortable and worrisome pain?

Simply put, you displaced a rib in your mid back region and it’s pinching a nerve that shoots pain towards the side of your rib cage area. Sometimes, the pain refers to the front of the chest. To get a better sense of what happens, one must look at the anatomy of the thoracic spine. Ribs attach on the vertebrae of your spine at a junction called the costovertebral joint. These joints move with rib expansion. When they get displaced, they tend to rub on a nerve root that is very sensitive to pain or pressure. This compression causes nerve pain and radiation of pain in the chest area.

Causes

The most common causes are related to some form of trauma, a fall, playing contact sports or overexertion of muscles to one side of the body that you are unaccustomed to do. Every fall season, it seems that I get a dozen patients to schedule an appointment because of rib pain and chest pain associated with raking leaves. It goes to show you that it doesn’t take much to “pop a rib” out of place! During the winter season, prolonged sneezing or coughing from a cold or bronchitis will also cause a rib problem.

Treatment

The physical displacement of a rib is the root cause of your pain and therefore to deal with you pain effectively you need a physical treatment for it. Chiropractic manipulation provides immediate relief for this condition and will make your ribs move normally again. As the pain intensity drops with manipulation, it is important to follow through with stretching exercises to gain symmetry between the left and right side of your mid back. Of particular use also could be a Theracane or a foam roller to decrease muscle tension as well. If you have severe muscle tension, massage therapy and trigger point dry needling can help. Typically, it takes roughly 2 to 4 visits to correct this problem. But unfortunately, if you’re very active like an MMA fighter or performing Brazilian Jujitsu like the patient below, you might develop this problem several times!

Review of a patient treated with displaced ribs

“An absolutely awesome group! Not only has the office staff always been able to squeeze me in for an appointment, but they have managed same day appointments each time. I am a busy mom with a small at home business and have very active children so my time is hard to come by. My entire family does make time for Jiu Jitsu as our family activity each week. We all love it and have gotten in such great shape and made friends through it, but I also learned just how out of shape I was. As an Army Veteran, I have always maintained good physical condition and just assumed I was in the shape needed to jump into Jiu Jitsu. Not so much! One particular night of training left me with 5 dislocated ribs and a very new special kind of pain. I went to several Urgent Cares, Doctors, even the VA for help. No one could do anything, but say, “it hurts and will take a few months, nothing we can really do”. My friends at 303 Training Center recommended Dr. Peter Ray to see if he could help. The staff at Partners in Health fit me in that day and what a difference even one visit made! I have had several follow-up appointments (I seem to have trouble staying out of the gym and re-injured myself – twice) and have always left their office feeling like they are worth every penny if not more! Speaking of the pennies required to pay – Partners in Health is without a doubt one of the most reasonably priced Chiropractic offices I have ever been to and is always willing to work with me and help me navigate the best financial options I have! 2 thumbs up for sure!” –Tschan Morse.