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Ouch, rib pain. Tales of an asthma cough.

Ouch, rib pain. Tales of an asthma cough

I had been experiencing some intense and pesky coughing episodes this month. I thought it was due to leftover triggers from the ever fluctuating temperatures or my ongoing mucus problems resurfacing. With that, it is almost always a cause of some form of coughing for me. At times I will cough so hard that I have shifted my thoracic cavity and even had a small rib fracture from the forceful and repeated coughing. I cough so frequently that I sometimes do not realize that I have done some rib damage. Even a small but forceful cough can do a bit of damage. Generally for me these results in straining and micro-tearing of intercostal muscles. These can be quite ouchie.

First things first, I need to always ensure that my cough is not a sign of an exacerbation brewing or a weird cold of flu coming on. In those circumstances I may need other treatment, I will need to closely monitor my cough, refer to my asthma action plan. Asthma is a major component of chronic cough. Chronic cough is defined as a cough lasting eight weeks or more. It is also important to note that not all asthmatics have a cough feature. There is however cough- variant asthma, where often the only asthma symptom is cough. At this stage, there is a poor understanding of the mechanics in coughs in asthma. Once I have ruled out these cough related issues. I can carry on, it turns out that my cough was related to changes in my mucous hypersecretion. This means that I could not do much but drink copious amounts of water and encourage a cough. Unfortunately, a productive cough is part of mucous clearing and keeping the airways clear. I am hopefully that advances in cough research will continue to investigate and find a better understanding of the pathophysiology of a cough in asthma. A more developed understanding will hopefully lead to novel pharmacotherapeutic strategies, which target and alleviate a cough in certain patients. 1

I need to still need to be diligent on my mucous clearing with my Positive Expiratory Pressure Therapy device. It can sometimes feel like an extra step during a rushed morning but I find it beneficial.

Unfortunately, a lot of rib pain just needs to help on its own. There are fancy braces or devices. One thing that I find really helpful in massage therapy. I know that there are many people that are not fond of alternative or complementary medicine. I, however, am into anything that may relieve intercostal pain. It is important that you use a registered massage therapist and if you can find one, one that specializes in chronic disease. I love my massage therapist, she is great at working out a tight thoracic cavity and working out a rigid diaphragm. Massage therapy may not be for everyone but I find that a regular schedule of massage therapy. Anything from bi-weekly to monthly helps keep my muscles limber and makes the coughing a lot more forgiving.

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

  1. J.A. Smith. Interrupting the cough reflex in asthma. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol, 10 (2010), pp. 77–81


  • mddsharpp
    1 year ago

    I just got back from the ER 10 minutes ago after rupturing TWO intercostal muscles and I have to tell you, I don’t think there is any worse pain humans can experience aside from burning.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi mddsharpp and thanks for your post in response to Dia’s article. I’m sorry you experienced this over the holiday weekend. But you are so right, ruptured muscles can be excruciatingly painful. Did the ER docs prescribe pain medication for you? Is it helping? Leon (site moderator)

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