Intercostal Neuralgia

What You Need to Know

Intercostal neuralgia occurs due to inflammation of the intercostal nerves. Intercostal nerves travel below the ribs and provide innervation to the chest and upper abdomen. Pain from this disorder generally starts in the mid-back and radiates to the front of the chest and abdomen depending on which nerves are affected. The pain is usually constant and burning in nature. There may also be some numbness in the affected area. Movement of the chest and deep breathing can sometimes worsen the pain.

Causes

Intercostal neuralgia is caused by inflammation of the intercostal nerves. It can be triggered by herpes zoster or previous chest surgery.

Symptoms

  • Constant, burning pain.
  • Numbness in the affected area

Intercostal neuralgia is often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tricyclic antidepressants or neuropathic pain medications. Heat or cold can also be applied to the area. If patients do not respond to these conservative measures, intercostal nerve blocks can be performed.