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Intercostal neuritis: what is it, causes, symptoms and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The intercostal neuritis (or intercostal neuralgia) is the term that designates the inflammation of one or more intercostal nerves and pain and other symptoms that produces.

You should know that an intercostal nerve runs along the lower edge of each rib, 12 on one side and 12 on the other. All are born in the spine and reach the sternum. When any of them, for the reasons that we will see, become inflamed, it causes this picture.

In this FastlyHealarticle we are going to explain the different causes of intercostal neuritis , what are the symptoms and what is the appropriate treatment for each case.

Neuritis intercostal: causas

In most patients, the precise cause of neuritis is unclear. Older people and women are known to be more susceptible to developing neuritis. The deficiency of certain nutrients and the appearance of some diseases, which affect the blood supply to the nerves, are important factors that contribute to its development.

The main causes of intercostal neuritis include:


It has been shown that, unlike other neuritis, people who develop in environments that generate high levels of stress are more prone and susceptible to developing intercostal neuritis.

Stress and the type of pain are what often lead the person to think that it may be a cardiovascular problem.

Emotional factors

People who are going through periods of depression and / or anxiety from any cause are also more likely to suffer from intercostal neuritis.

Children whose parents often argue or are in separation or divorce have been found to experience intercostal neuritis three times more often than other children.

Nutritional deficiencies

Different types of nutritional deficiencies can lead to neuritis and chronic neuritis. In particular, deficiencies of the B-complex vitamins (vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12) often cause peripheral neuritis.

These vitamins are essential for the proper transmission of the nerve impulse.


There are different types of infections that can cause intercostal neuritis and ultimately chronic neuritis. These include: Lyme disease , leprosy, cat scratch disease , syphilis, diphtheria, herpes simplex infection, and chickenpox.

In the case of the last two, both are herpes viruses; when neuritis occurs due to this cause, they are usually recurrent and its appearance is associated with prolonged exposure to the sun or fever.

predisposing diseases

Some conditions can make a person more vulnerable to intercostal neuritis. Among these we can consider: hypothyroidism , diabetes mellitus, porphyria, beriberi , autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis), chronic acidosis due to kidney failure, pernicious anemia and some types of cancer.

Autoimmune diseases are most commonly associated with optic neuritis.

Trauma / Injuries

Any type of direct injury to a nerve causes its inflammation and leads to the development of neuritis symptoms. There are different types of chest injuries that are localized and can involve one or more intercostal nerves.

The various means of injury to these nerves include:

  • Physical injury: Direct injury (penetrating injury) to the nerve and compression of the nerve causes neuritis. This is the case of the person who suffers some type of accident and receives a direct thoracic trauma. The most common are traffic accidents, when the person collides with the steering wheel of the vehicle or is run over. It is also common in the case of battered child syndrome. Direct blows to the child’s chest can cause intercostal neuritis.
  • Radiation injury : Radiation therapy used to treat cancer (usually lung) can cause nerve damage, leading to the development of neuritis.
  • Chemical injury: Certain medications, given by injection, can cause chemical damage to the nerves. It can also occur as a side effect of some drugs used during chemotherapy. Metal poisoning, such as arsenic poisoning, can also cause chemical neuritis.

Medications and toxins

The toxicity that occurs as a result of certain environmental pollutants, drugs, metals, and other chemicals can also cause intercostal neuritis. Insecticides, lead, mercury, methanol, arsenic, and chronic alcoholism are some of the substances that contribute to the development of intercostal neuritis.

Intercostal neuritis (and other neuritis) have also been reported in patients taking long-term cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), arthritis, and blood pressure medications.

Intercostal neuritis: symptoms

The most characteristic symptom of intercostal neuritis is pain. It is a pain that is defined as “dull”, because it is deeply felt and it is difficult to define the location.

It is also typical that the person must reduce the expansion of the chest when breathing, since deep inspiration increases pain.

Another classic element is the persistence of pain , which lasts for hours and remains constant, with occasional periods of exacerbation.

The sign that allows the doctor to establish the diagnosis is that when pressing along the edge of the rib, the pain reaches its greatest intensity, causing interruption of inspiration, and can lead to cold sweating and even nausea.

How to cure intercostal neuritis: treatment

The most important thing is to establish the diagnosis and make it clear that it is neuritis and has nothing to do with a cardiovascular problem. The stress or anxiety that caused the neuritis, associated with the possibility of a heart attack, enhance the pain. Just making the diagnosis and making it clear to the patient that with the treatment that will be indicated the pain will disappear, is to win 50% of the battle. Then, the corresponding indication will be made.

It is usually a pain that responds very well to the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers. These should be associated with a muscle relaxant for at least 5 days, in order to allow the nerve not to be compressed with each breath.

In addition, the ingestion of B complex vitamins will be added for at least one month.

If it is detected that the neuritis is due to a viral infection or due to an injury or trauma, the corresponding treatment will be associated. The same will be done in the event that an infection or predisposing disease is detected as the cause.

Physical activity should be limited for at least 15 days to allow the nervous tissue to completely deflate and the nerve to begin the regeneration process.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Intercostal Neuritis: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Brain and Nerves category .

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