What is it?

Intercostal neuralgia refers to pain in the intercostal nerves. It may be caused due to irritation, inflammation or compression of the nerves. These conditions are caused due to chest trauma, viral infections such as shingles, nerve entrapment, and injury from surgical procedures.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms include pain around the ribs, in the upper chest or in the upper back. Other symptoms may include squeezing pressure around the chest, tingling and numbness. The pain may get worse during physical activities, coughing, laughing or stretching. If the condition progresses, symptoms may include involuntary muscle twitching, loss of appetite, paralysis, and muscle atrophy.


Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. Further evaluation may include imaging tests.


Treatment may include over the counter pain relievers, medications such as amitriptyline, desipramine, duloxetine, imipramine, nortriptyline and venlafaxine. Other medications may include anticonvulsant medications. If medications don’t help, a nerve block injection may be done. Other possible treatments include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and relaxation therapy.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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