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How long does a pulled rib muscle last?

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Quick Answer

The usual healing time for a pulled rib muscle is typically anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks, according to Physioadvisor.com. It can take much longer, depending on the severity of the strain.

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Full Answer

An intercostal strain, commonly known as a pulled rib muscle, is a very painful injury that commonly affects athletes, according to Physioadvisor.com. The intercostal muscles are attached from the rib above to the rib below and function to stabilize the chest wall and also to elevate the ribs. As a result of repetitive movement, such as the fast twisting and turning motion of the torso used while playing sports such as tennis or basketball, these muscles can become strained. Intercostal rib sprains can also happen due to a direct blow to the ribs or during a collision in contact sports like football or in a motor vehicle accident.

Most patients experience a sudden sharp pain after pulling a rib muscle and sometimes feel a pulling sensation on the side of the chest or lower ribs, according to Physioadvisor.com. Breathing deeply, bending or using twisting motions can aggravate the condition, and occasionally, bruising on the injured area can be observed. A subjective or objective examination by a physician is usually ample enough to diagnose an intercostal sprain, but further tests such as an MRI, CT scan or ultrasound are necessary to confirm diagnosis.

There are three classes of muscle strains used to describe the severity of the sprain, according to BodyMotion.com. The first, a grade one strain to the rib muscle, is considered mild and usually heals within two to three weeks. A grade two strain is considered moderate with further damage to the muscle fibers and the healing time typically lasts three to six weeks. A grade three strain is the most severe and means that the muscle has been ruptured. Because of the severity of a grade three injury to the muscle, surgery to repair it is required, and it can take up to three months to heal.

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