About Intercostal Neuralgia
Intercostal neuralgia refers to irritation or inflammation of the tiny nerves that run along each rib of the thoracic spine. Inflammation of these nerves can result in sharp shooting pain that is worse with twisting, bending, and deep breaths. The intercostal nerves are small branches of the thoracic nerve roots. These nerves run between the ribs and can be damaged in various ways. The most common cause is cardiothoracic surgery, during which a nerve can be inadvertently damaged.
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Symptoms of Intercostal Neuralgia
Intercostal neuralgia presents as an intense, sharp, shooting pain that is felt in the chest. The pain generally radiates from the side of the body inward toward the abdomen. The skin overlying this area can be very painful to the touch and there can be increased sensitivity to light touch and temperature.
Treatments for Intercostal Neuralgia
Treatments for intercostal neuralgia include treating the nerves with local anesthetic (numbing medication) with or without steroids to help decrease inflammation and improve the pain. These procedures are always performed with imaging guidance, usually a combination of live x-ray and ultrasound guidance to ensure safe placement of the medication. If the pain improves, but does not last with an injection, our providers may be able to perform radiofrequency ablation of these nerves for more long term relief. Another more novel approach that does not utilize steroids or radiofrequency ablation is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and/or platelet lysate (PL). Our providers are able to utilize our Regenexx lab platform to create concentrated PL that when injected around these irritated nerves can act as a very strong anti-inflammatory and promote nerve healing.
If you are interested to learn more about Regenexx and whether you qualify for treatment, please reach out to Ospina Medical, located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City to speak with one of our Regenexx providers today.
Intercostal Neuralgia FAQs
How will I know if I have intercostal neuralgia?
If you have unexplained pain, which stems from unexpected or sudden movements that engage your upper chest, like laughing, coughing, or breathing, you may want to pay attention to what is going on. If you have intercostal neuralgia, you may also experience numbness, tingling, and pain in your back, shoulders, and neck. If you have ongoing symptoms which match those explained above, please bring them up with your practitioner at Ospina Medical so that we can get to the root of your pain.
How long will I have intercostal neuralgia?
The duration of your symptoms will depend on a number of factors, such as the severity of your case and your proposed plan of treatment. We prefer to adopt a conservative approach with our New York, NY patients, meaning we will evaluate each case for the least invasive treatment approach possible. We will also provide you with resources for pain management for the duration of your treatment.
What are the causes of intercostal neuralgia?
There are a variety of events that can catalyze intercostal neuralgia. Most generally, it is caused by inflammation or injury to the intercostal nerves which branch off underneath the ribcage. Various traumatic events, injuries, accidents, viruses, or surgery may cause this inflammation, so it's important to disclose your full medical history to your doctor when in the diagnostic stages.