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How To Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain? (ANSWERED)

How To Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain? (ANSWERED)

Sleepers with an intercostal muscle strain experience sharp pain when they make any move, including breathing, coughing, turning, and stretching. Finding a comfortable position that yields quality sleep is hard yet possible. So, how do you sleep with intercostal muscle strain?

It is best for people with intercostal muscle strain to sleep in an upright position. Such promotes spinal alignment and keeps your torso in a neutral state to prevent pain-enabling twists and unnecessary weight.

Getting quality sleep during healing is essential in promoting faster recovery. Today, we inform you how intercostal muscle strain happens and how to sleep with the same;

muscle pain bed

What Is Intercostal Muscle Strain?

An Intercostal muscle strain is muscle injury between the rib muscles known as intercostals or intercostal muscles. Such strains are a common cause of chest pain and mid-back and upper-back pain.

Intercostal muscles assist in breathing during any physical activity. The external intercostals contract during inhalation, raising your ribs. Contrarily, the internal intercostals contract during exhalation, lowering your ribs. A strain on the same makes it difficult to perform involuntary bodily activities like breathing.

What Causes Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Intercostal muscle strain is caused by impact sports that injure soft tissue, such as football, basketball, weightlifting, hockey, and rowing. Strain from such sports could either be single-time or repeated impacts.

Another way to get intercostal muscle strain is from a direct blow to your ribcage. These include a fight, a road accident, or a fall. Others are coughing or sneezing and reaching for something at a higher place.

What Are The Symptoms Of Intercostal Muscle Strain?

Here are giveaway signs and symptoms of an intercostal muscle strain;


The strain of intercostal muscles is characterized by sharp, localized pain. You could feel the pain at the time of impact or injury, or it will kick in gradually. Also, the pain worsens with any movement requiring the intercostal muscles, like deep breathing, sneezing, stretching, or coughing.


The point of impact and the surrounding area could get tender and feel sore and sensitive to touch.

Swelling And Inflammation

You will experience slight swelling or inflammation in the area of injury. However, it could be several hours before you notice the swelling.

Involuntary Muscle Tightening

A strain of intercostal muscles could result in you experiencing muscle spasms when breathing, twisting, or reaching.

Difficulty In Breathing

We often do not realize it when we are breathing. However, you take tiny and careful breaths when you experience pain in your ribcage after an injury.

How To Sleep With Intercostal Muscle Strain

It can be challenging to fall asleep amidst growing pain and immobility. According to the National Sleep Survey conducted in 2015, sleepers that experience extreme pain have poor quality sleep. Such results from having fewer hours of sleep and feeling like they almost have no control over their rest.

Yet, some tips help you work around the pain and other extremities of intercostal muscle strain. If you have trouble sleeping with intercostal muscle strain, try these tips;

Sleep Sitting Upright Or Slightly Elevated

Sleeping in an upright position is ideal for sleepers recovering from intercostal muscle pain. Side-sleeping strains the injured area, worsening the pain.

However, sleeping while sitting upright promotes spinal alignment and keeps your torso in a neutral position. Such protects your intercostals from twisting and keeps off extra weight.

Below are ways to sleep upright or in an elevated position;

Sleep On A Reclining Bed Or An Adjustable Bedframe

A reclining bed is adjustable to allow you to alter the height and angling of the bed for improved comfort. Finding one with a remote control feature is advisable to avoid twisting and straining your injured intercostal muscles. If not, find one with an easy-to-reach lever for ease of accessibility and control.

Unlike a standard bed, an adjustable bed frame allows someone with intercostal muscle strain more control. They can easily get in and out of bed, adjust to the angling with maximum comfort, and experience minimum pain. Reduced pain and more comfort and relaxation lead to better sleep quality.

Use A Wedge Pillow

Place a wedge pillow against your bed's headboard and sleep upright or slightly reclined. Doing so offers pressure relief from your ribcage, allowing ease of breathing and relaxation. It then relieves pain and promotes undisturbed, quality sleep.

If you do not have a wedge pillow, prop yourself using the pillows and towels available in your room.

Use A Backrest Pillow With Arms

A backrest pillow with arms offers contouring support that aligns your back muscles. Such promotes comfort as you lie on your back for long.

The armrest also takes the added weight off your mid-chest area, relieving your intercostal muscles from strain and pain. Being in a comfortable position promotes restful sleep at night.

Place A Pillow Under Your Knees To Relieve Upper Back Pain

Putting a pillow under your knees or legs elevates your legs, promoting healthy spinal alignment. You could use a rolled pillow, blanket, or an old mattress under your knees for the same purpose. Such offers pressure relief by reducing the pressure build-up on your lower back muscles.

Another benefit of putting a pillow under your knees is relieving leg cramping or soreness. Such pain could heighten chest pain. Eliminating the promoters of chest pain allows you to relax and sleep well.

Conduct Mild Breathing Exercises Before Sleep

Conducting mild breathing exercises before bed promotes chest pain relief, promoting better sleep quality. Gentle breathing exercises also relieve stress and anxiety, resulting in better sleep. Experts recommend having these exercises while standing or sitting in an upright position.

Start by taking a deep inhalation until you feel your abdomen muscles expand. Then, slowly exhale and repeat. Do this up to ten times for best results. However, avoid excessive stretches during breathing exercises as it could strain your intercostal muscles, worsening the pain.

Practice Mindful Meditation Before Bed

Mindful meditation promotes pain relief and promotes physical relaxation. It could also relieve stress and anxiety, allowing you to fall asleep easier and have a restful sleep at night.

There are different forms of mindful meditation. In this case, however, find a quiet and peaceful place. Proceed to sit in a comfortable position and start taking calculated breaths. You could choose to concentrate on your breathing, certain words, or an object in the room. Remember to maintain a straight-back posture during the meditation.

Consider Pain-Management Hacks

Sometimes, the only thing getting in the way of quality sleep for people with intercostal muscle strain is torturous pain. We recommend finding ways to relieve pain for even better sleep. Here are common tips for pain relief caused by a strain of intercostal muscles;

Take Pain Medication

If you cannot get past the pain, consult your doctor for pain medication you can take. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory medicines like naproxen and ibuprofen will help with the pain. However, ensure you have your doctor's go-ahead before taking OTC drugs.

Conduct Hot Or Cold Therapy

Cold therapy relieves pain and muscle inflammation, leading to better sleep. Start by rolling an ice pack in a towel, then place it on your injured area for up to twenty minutes. Cold presses are ideal for fresh injuries. However, hot therapy works better from two days post-injury.

Hot therapy involves wrapping a heating pad in a towel and gentle presses on the affected chest area. It promotes faster healing since it has the benefits of physical therapy, which you cannot do. Such benefits include the loosening and relaxation of muscles.

cant sleep

Practice Safe Coughing And Sneezing

Sneezing or coughing at night could strain and injure the intercostal muscle strain, leading to more pain. However, since coughing and sneezing are involuntary, we recommend having a pillow or rolled towel next to you when sleeping. Hold it against your chest whenever you want to sneeze or cough to avoid straining your chest muscles.


Tips like sleeping while sitting upright and conducting mild breathing exercises before bed help you sleep with intercostal muscle pain. Still, failing to follow your doctor's recommendations could worsen your injury's pain and state. Consult your doctor if the above tips fail to work.