Treatment Options for Intercostal Neuralgia

woman holding her chest in painIntercostal neuralgia or chest wall pain is caused by an injury or inflammation of the intercostal nerves located under the ribs. This condition results in pain and can be due to numerous reasons. If you are experiencing any type of chest wall pain, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Common Causes and Symptoms of Intercostal Neuralgia

Intercostal neuralgia may occur after a medical procedure such as a mastectomy, breast surgery, or placement of a chest tube. It can also be caused by the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma to the chest or ribs
  • Surgery
  • Nerve entrapment
  • Viral infections such as shingles

Dull, constant pain is the most common symptom of intercostal neuralgia, but the pain can vary in intensity and can be accompanied by numbness and tingling. Intercostal neuralgia pain can wrap around the upper chest like a band and is often described as pain that is:

  • Sharp
  • Stabbing
  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Shooting
  • Radiating

Those with intercostal neuralgia may have pain when breathing, laughing, and sneezing. The pain can shoot to the back and into the side of the ribs. The pain can become so severe that it affects the ability to breathe and move.

Treatment Options

Any sign of chest wall pain should be evaluated by a medical professional. Seek immediate medical attention for any pain you are experiencing in your chest, especially if you feel sick and the pain is severe and radiates to your arms or jaw since this can indicate a heart attack.

To diagnose intercostal neuralgia, other causes of chest pain will first need to be ruled out. A physical exam, imaging tests, and neurological exam may be done to diagnose the condition. If you are experiencing pain in the area between your ribs or when you take in a deep breath, it can indicate that intercostal neuralgia is the cause of your chest wall pain.

Treatment options can vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of symptoms. Some options to treat intercostal neuralgia are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antidepressant or anticonvulsant medication
  • Intercostal nerve block
  • Radiofrequency lesioning
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Cognitive or behavioral therapy
  • Surgery

Dr. Williams has been successful in performing nerve blocks and operating on patients with chronic chest wall pain in order to provide relief from intercostal neuralgia pain. He is able to determine the source of your chest pain to get the root cause so that he can customize a treatment plan to fit your specific needs.

If you need to find relief from intercostal neuralgia, contact Dr. Williams for an evaluation. To schedule an appointment in the Baltimore office, contact us at (410) 709-3868 or fill out our contact form online.

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