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Pulling a Rib Muscle From Coughing - Ouch!

Pulling a Rib Muscle From Coughing – Ouch!

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.

Then there’s the time when you can have a severe, sudden asthma attack or are sick with bronchitis or pneumonia.

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 work out! 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 when the asthma cough attacks

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.

You can also crack a rib from coughing! 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.

Which can make for an exciting time the next time you have to cough. The pain is horrible!

Rib pain from coughing

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.

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? I’d love to read your story here.

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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.


  • Anonymous
    4 months ago

    The only reason why I have asthma is because I had pertussis, also known as whooping cough. I never before had asthma until then. It goes from a dry cough to productiveness, so be very careful and stay hydrated. Another thing that really helps with keeping moisture in the air and don’t letting your arrogant too dry, especially during productive times. Letting the air get too dry can sometimes pose a problem because if the phlegm gets too thick, you won’t be able to get it up, especially if it happens to be further down in your respiratory system threatening your airway. Been there, done that! Putting moisture back into the air at an appropriate level really helps with expelling phlegm. Always be careful to drink plenty of fluids, especially water

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi Anonymous and thanks for your post. We appreciate you sharing your medical history and story with the community. You are so right about making certain to stay hydrated properly with this condition. I thought you might gain some additional insight from this article on the topic of asthma and hydration: I do hope you find it to be helpful.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • JuanE
    2 years ago


    Hi! Same here. I’ve been suffering from asthma since i was 3 to 4 years old. Now i’m 33 and my asthma is modérate to severe. I’m on Symbicort 160/4.5, Ventolin 90 MCG and Singulair 10 MG. Last year i had to courses of prednisone 20MG. Sometimes, even without a cold, my airways just tighten and i start wheezing. As you wrote, when the flu atacks, my asthma just make me cough so hard that my ribs, muscles and everything put me on so much pain that i start screaming from pain. Sad for us! Sometimes i found my self in a situation of fear, frustration, anxiety and hope. Yes, i know, is a weard thing but is how i feel, so, i trust me, i know how you feel! May God one day real this thing on us!!!



  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    2 years ago

    Juan, it is frustrating! It seems like we have good days and bad days. And I’m guilty of taking good days for granted. But when the bad days come, they are tough to deal with. Keep your chin up! Our family mantra is “Things Can Always Be Worse!:

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