Pulling a Rib Muscle From Coughing - Ouch!
Last updated: April 2023
Sometimes, when I help families learn more about asthma, they will lean forward and whisper, “Sometimes my son coughs so hard... he throws up.” Mmmhmmm. Welcome to my world.
The "asthma cough"
Coughing is a “fun” part of asthma. And it can vary by person and by the asthma attack. Sometimes, you can have a little tickle in the back of your throat, and that may make you have an annoying little cough. Doesn’t do much - you may just have a small cough for a few minutes, but you can take a drink of water and it stops. Not too bad, just annoying.
That’s when the “fun” starts. The coughing can come out of the blue, as in the case of a sudden, severe asthma attack. Or, it can be steady - for weeks. Those tend to be the times when my coughing is the most severe. That’s when I’m most likely to cough so hard I throw up.
And talk about an ab workout! Whoa! It feels like I have just done 100 crunches. Too bad I don’t end up with a 6 pack!
Pulling a rib muscle from a cough attack
And then there’s the time when you can pull a muscle and break or crack a rib by coughing. I tried to find information from a medical website about that, but all I could find was a forum where plenty of people were complaining that they felt like they had pulled a muscle while coughing.1
You can also crack a rib from coughing!2 Crazy, right? If you’ve done either, you know how painful it can be. And for treatment, well... there isn’t one. Sometimes they will tell you to put ice on the sore area or wrap your ribs with a long ace bandage. But most of the time, you just get to wait for the ribs and muscle to heal.3 Which can make for an exciting time the next time you have to cough. The pain is horrible!
What helps my rib pain?
What can help during rib pain due to asthma cough?
I have found that the only thing that helps me is to gently push in on my ribs to offer a counter-pressure when I cough. It still hurts - but not as bad. Your doctor will want you to keep your pain under control because if your ribs hurt too much, you may not take deep breaths and you could develop pneumonia.3
I haven’t found any cough medicine that helps me that much when I’m sick. I notice that I cough more, and harder when it’s close to the time for my last albuterol treatment to wear off. Since albuterol only lasts for 4-6 hours, I can feel it start to wear off. My lungs get tighter and my coughing gets worse.
So, I squirt another vial into the medicine cup on my nebulizer and start the machine. It works wonders in quieting my cough. In fact, sometimes it's hard to do a breathing treatment because I start coughing (again). So, I'll remove the mouthpiece or mask and hold that in one hand while I push in on my ribs with the other hand. Good times!
Has anyone else had the "joy" of pulling a rib muscle or cracking a rib from coughing? Share your experience.
Has laughter ever triggered your asthma?