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pain radiating from rib

Rib Pain from Coughing?

Yep, it can happen.

Thought you could only hurt your ribs in an accident? Well, there are a lot of ways to hurt ribs – accidents, sports, reaching/lifting/twisting, or sneezing and coughing.

Yes, coughing.

When you have asthma, you can hurt your ribs by coughing during an asthma attack or while you are sick with bronchitis or pneumonia.

How do you know if you have injured your ribs?

The most obvious is pain (it can be sudden and sharp, or come on gradually.) You may also have tenderness and swelling. Your doctor may want to make sure it’s not something serious, so it would be a good idea to check in with him or her.

Just like other strained muscles, these injuries are graded on a scale of 0-3, depending on how serious they are. Grade 1 may take 2-3 WEEKS to heal. Grade 2 may take 2-3 MONTHS to heal, and Grade 3 may need surgery.

How can you help rib pain?

An over-the-counter pain reliever is usually the first choice for injuries, as is an ice pack (many doctors recommend using an ice pack for only 20 minutes at a time.)

Prescription cough medicine can also help. When I pulled a muscle in my ribs from coughing during a bout with bronchitis, my doctor gave me a prescription cough medicine to calm my cough. Usually, doctors WANT you to cough to keep your lungs clear. But my doctor could see how much pain I was in and knew that would cause me to take shallow breaths – which could allow pneumonia to develop in my lungs.

Light pressure against your ribs can help reduce pain if you need to cough or move around. Sounds weird, but it worked for me. I used the palm of my hand to gently press against my ribs, but some people will use pillows to gently apply counter pressure if they need to cough.

If in doubt, call your doctor so you know what you are dealing with and how they want you to treat your rib pain. And try to be patient. Notice I said, “try?”

Anyone else experienced rib pain from a pulled muscle or broken rib due to asthma?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • JanetH
    6 months ago

    As another comment, as a teenager, I once developed pleurisy as a complication from bronchitis during a very cold, damp spring. It took FOREVER to recover from, and that causes its own rib pain.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    HI again, JanetH and thanks for your post(s) here. Pleurisy can be a serious condition to deal with, as you well know. I’m sorry you’ve gone through this (as well as the other conditions you’ve shared with the community, below). How do you manage all of this now?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • JanetH
    6 months ago

    I’ve had to go to an osteopath a few times to get a dislocated rib pushed back in. Usually this is an issue from having a bad cold, not my regular asthma issues, when I’m sneezing AND coughing a lot. Physical therapy sounds like a good idea. I’ve also had costochondritis at least once, which is inflammation of rib cartilage. I didn’t know before I had it that ribs have joints, although that makes sense. Since I can’t take NSAIDS, I can only take acetaminophen, get a massage, heat therapy, try not to cough or sneeze too hard (easier said than done). I think I got the costochondritis once from over-zealous gardening.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi again, JanetH and thanks for this response as well. We appreciate your input.
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    7 months ago

    I have dislocated a rib and physical therapy had me do exercises to get it back in place. That was from a fall but sometimes with my asthma cough I feel it get out of place and I just do my exercises and it goes back. I guess once you have dislocated a rib, it can happen again.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    7 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for chiming in here with your own personal experience. We appreciate you sharing with the community. Leon (site moderator)

  • Kats
    6 months ago

    I have broken ribs from coughing, developed coscondritis…pneumonia from trying to avoid the ER and steroids. Not fun, wears me out the older I get. Currently, I am struggling again because I just can’t afford to go in to an Urgent care. So I am using my nebulizer treatments to try to rid myself of the tight chest muscles. Sniffing peppermint through a towel with warm heat from a bowl. Drains out the mucus beautifully

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