The treatment for a strained intercostal muscle is simply rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and mild stretching, according to WebMD. Since the intercostals are ribcage muscles, the injured person should limit twisting and turning movements to reduce the risk of further injury or prolonging healing time.
Each side of the ribcage has 11 intercostal muscles connecting each rib to the next and are responsible for spreading the ribs and drawing them back together. This action occurs when breathing in and out expands and contracts the ribcage. WebMD explains that rotating and stretching motions are common causes of tears in intercostal muscles. The treatment steps are to rest, which allows for healing, and to apply ice, which reduces swelling, inflammation and pain.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen that are available over the counter, and they additionally help reduce swelling and pain without steroids or a prescription. MedicineNet.com lists several of these drugs and states that they are specifically useful in sports-related injuries. Other NSAIDs require a doctor's prescription and may be recommended for more severe intercostal tears. Gentle stretching is the last step of the treatment. Stretches for the ribcage include the cat stretch and side stretches, according to FitnessRepublic. Performed gently, these exercises keep the intercostals flexible during recovery.