Intercostal Neuritis: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Differences With Neuralgia

Peripheral nerves are outside the central nervous system (CNS), brain, and spinal cord.

These nerves can carry sensory information (sensory nerves ) to the central nervous system or motor signals (motor nerves) to the muscle.

Nerves are a collection of neurons, the primary nerve cell, and like any part of the body, it is prone to a wide range of diseases. When a nerve is affected by a disease process, its function can be affected to varying degrees.

This can be seen as a change in sensation, abnormal sensations, or muscle activity. Neuritis is a medical term for inflammation of the nerve. It can affect one nerve (mononeuritis) or more nerves (plexitis).

A mono neuritis multiplex occurs when several individual nerves are affected. On the other hand, polyneuritis is when the separated nerves are affected.

Neuritis intercostal

Pain is felt along the intercostal nerves, between the ribs. Signs and symptoms are constant, dull aches. Some patients experience sharp, stabbing pain.

Pain is felt during sudden movements, primarily actions that involve the upper chest. Simple breathing, laughter, and sneezing can trigger pain.


Associated symptoms include pain on the left side, a tingling sensation, numbness, and shooting pain that radiates to the back. Severe intercostal neuritis caused extreme pain, making it difficult for the patient to breathe and move.

If you feel pain in the intercostal area and its surrounding structure, you should immediately seek help.

What are the causes?

Injury: An injury to the nerve causes neuritis. It could be a physical injury, a chemical injury, or a radiation injury. An example of a bodily nerve injury is carpal tunnel syndrome, or pain and numbness of the thumb and index fingers.

On the other hand, chemical nerve injury arises secondary to damage to surrounding structures that causes nerves to release harmful substances. Radiation injury develops after radiation therapy.

Nutritional deficiencies: Neuritis is common in people with vitamin B complex deficiency, specifically vitamin B1, B2, B6, and B12.

Infections: Some diseases cause inflammation of the nerves, such as syphilis, leprosy, chickenpox, Lyme disease, diphtheria, cat scratch disease, and herpes simplex infection.

Predisposing Factors: Some medical conditions increase your chances of experiencing neuritis. Examples are hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, pernicious anemia, porphyria, chronic acidosis, certain types of cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Genetics: Some types of neuritis can be transferred genetically, such as amyloid neuropathy and Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy.

Toxins and Medications: Neuritis can be triggered by toxicity, such as exposure to heavy metals, environmental pollutants, strong chemicals, drugs, chronic alcoholism, and lead. Some antibiotics cause neuritis.

There is no cure for intercostal neuritis, but treatment can help improve your symptoms. Some types of neuritis get better over time. More research is being done to develop better treatments for intercostal neuritis.

Symptoms of intercostal neuritis

If you have never heard of intercostal neuritis, you are not alone, as it is a rare condition that affects the sincerely protected nerves within your rib cage. Straining or damaging one of these nerves can cause breathing difficulties and severe pain when moving.

Intercostal neuritis is inflammatory, with inflammation occurring in a specific nerve or nerve group.

Symptoms of intercostal neuritis are similar to those of intercostal neuralgia and neuropathy, except that they most often include burning and may be accompanied by inflammation and fever, and, in some severe cases, episodes of seizures.

The symptoms of these three conditions range from mild to severe pain, constant or intermittent pain, burning, tingling, and shooting pain. Some of the common symptoms of localized neuritis in the affected area include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain, which can be of stabbing quality.
  • Tingling or burning sensation (paraesthesia)

Symptoms of severe neuritis include loss of sensation, numbness, redness of the skin, swelling, paralysis, muscle wasting, and loss of muscle reflexes.

Symptoms of optic neuritis consist of visual disturbances, such as blurred or distorted vision and even vision loss. There may be a pain in the eye and loss of color vision. Some patients may have trouble adjusting to darkness or bright light.


The treatment and cure for intercostal and chronic neuritis differ depending on the cause.

In some cases, neuritis cannot be cured. For example, if the cause of neuritis in a patient is acidosis caused by stress and the patient is still stressed, or if pressure is not relieved, the neuritis also persists, leading to chronic neuritis.

If the cause of intercostal neuritis is simple, such as vitamin deficiency, then it is easily curable through the use of vitamins. Regular consumption of vitamin B also helps treat intercostal neuritis.

Pain relievers can provide some relief but do not provide a permanent cure for neuritis or intercostal neuritis. Long-term use of pain relievers increases the risk of heart and kidney disease.

Diet changes can also help cure intercostal neuritis. Foods like carrots, sour milk, and coconut can help with chronic and intercostal neuritis.

The patient should follow a diet of whole grains, brown rice, whole wheat, fresh milk, raw seeds, oats, cottage cheese, and sprouted beans.

A week-long juice cleanses consisting of carrot, apple, pineapple, beet, and citrus juices, after which following a diet consisting of a generous amount of fruits and vegetables also helps prevent and eliminate symptoms of the intercostal neuritis.

There are natural treatments that patients with this condition can use alone or with a pain management plan to help with symptoms. Cold therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, and yoga can be beneficial.

We have outlined two critical exercises used for intercostal neuritis:

  1. Stretching

The chest cavity expands by lifting the arms to the side, stretching the intercostal nerves, muscles, and blood vessels.

Raise your arms over your head and clench your hands as you lean to the side. Hold the position for several minutes. Repeat on the other side.

For the next stretch, stand in a doorway and place your hands on either side with your elbows bent. Place your feet shoulder-width apart while leaning forward slightly. You should feel a comforting stretch in your back, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Posture training

This exercise corrects your posture and helps reduce the symptoms of intercostal neuritis. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and tuck your pelvis underneath. Place your arms down with your elbows touching the side of your body.

Gently move your hands behind you, so they touch your shoulder blades. Press your hands together in small movements 10 to 20 times before returning to the starting position. Repeat at least twice a day.

What is the difference between neuralgia and intercostal neuritis?

Neuralgia is a severe pain occurring over a nerve. Its cause is not known. Neuritis is an inflammation of a nerve caused by disease or injury.

Neuritis is a painful condition that can affect one or more nerves. Bacteria, viruses, and dietary and vitamin deficiencies can cause neuritis.

Infections such as tuberculosis and shingles can invade a nerve, leading to neuritis or, in this case, intercostal neuritis.

Neuritis can also develop when a disease, such as diabetes changes the activities of the body’s cells. Intercostal neuritis caused by physical injury to a nerve involves only the injured nerve.

Neuritis or intercostal neuritis is often mistaken for a completely different disorder called neuralgia.

The pain in intercostal neuralgia may be limited to one part of the nerve or extend along the nerve branches. It can occur as repeated bouts of pain in the teeth, sinuses, eyes, face, tongue, or throat.

Neuralgia or intercostal neuralgia occurs in just two nerves. One nerve, the trigeminal, has three branches that enter the eyes, face, sinuses, and teeth. The other, the glossopharyngeal, leads to the back of the tongue and throat.

One type of neuralgia common in older people is called tic douloureux. The name in French means “painful contraction.” Tic douloureux affects the trigeminal nerve and causes facial pain. The facial muscles can contract whenever a stab of pain occurs.

The pain occurs suddenly and then shoots along one side of the face. It usually begins in a specific part of the nerve called the trigger zone. It can then spread along various branches of the nerves, but it never involves other nerves.

In tic douloureux, the pain can last for only a few hours, or it can last for several weeks. It can go away for a few months or years but usually returns. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia is a low condition. It affects the throat and the back of the tongue.

Temporary relief for both types of neuralgia can be obtained by using specific prescription medications or by numbing the nerve with an alcohol shot from the doctor. If the pain does not go away, the only cure could be surgery to remove part of the nerve.

If intercostal neuritis continues for an extended period, a nerve can become so damaged that it can no longer function properly. As a result, a person may lose the ability to feel heat, pressure, and touch.

The body can also lose control of some automatic activities. If the nerve can no longer stimulate a muscle, the muscle is wasted and eventually becomes paralyzed. Neuritis or intercostal neuritis elsewhere is a severe disorder that requires medical attention.