The human thorax comprises of ribs that protect the inner organs like the heart and the lungs from external injury or trauma. The ribs are connected to the spine and supported by different muscles located along the anterior and lateral walls of the chest.
The portion of the chest wall, located between two consecutive ribs is referred to as the intercostal space.
Here are some common causes that are associated with intercostal neuralgia,
- Direct injury or trauma to the rib cage can result in damage to the underlying nerve, resulting in intercostal neuralgia.
- Degenerative disease of the nerves can result in pinching and damaging of the nerves, resulting in intercostal neuralgia.
- Nutritional deficiencies, especially those of vitamin B12 can cause the nerves to become highly sensitive and result in neuralgia.
Intercostal Neuralgia Symptoms
The primary symptom associated with intercostal neuralgia is pain which is aggravated by coughing, laughing or breathing.
- Tingling and numbness sensation which may affect a single or multiple intercostal spaces. Often this tingling and numbness is associated with increased sensitivity to touch.
- Itching which a unique ‘lightning-bolt’ like sensation which is usually intermittent in nature.
- The pain in general is severe and spasmodic in nature. Pain generally aggravated on exertion.
Correct diagnosis of the condition is important, since there are host of conditions which often mimic the symptoms associated with intercostal neuralgia. Diagnosis can be based on a detailed clinical history, followed by clinical evaluation. CT scan and MRI imaging may be requested on certain occasions in order to rule out nerve root compressions.
Home Remedies For Intercostal Neuralgia
There are some simple home remedies and home based treatment options that might be beneficial in the management of intercostal neuralgia,
- Local hot water compress can help improve the circulation of blood, which in turn can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the neuralgia.
- Add a table spoon of turmeric and raw honey to a glass of warm milk and consume about three to four times in a day. Turmeric helps reduce inflammation around the nerves, with action very similar to NSAIDs, while honey has a soothing effect.
- Physical therapy and massage can also help improve circulation around the nerve and thereby alleviate the pain; however these techniques need to be performed in the presence of a trained alternative care provider.
- Some experts have suggested that acupressure and acupuncture have proven to be effective in the treatment of the condition.
- Aromatherapy essential oils namely clove oil can help in alleviating the symptoms of pain and burning and hasten the recovery process.
If simple home based treatment therapies fail to provide sustained relief, there are a host of more aggressive treatment regimens that are available for the patient management. External stimulation of the nerves is considered as the primary option; this is followed by placement of an internal device to regularly stimulate the nerve.
In severe cases, surgical treatment is undertaken which attempts to obstruct the sending of pain messages to the brain and thereby provides relief.