It’s coming up on the 4 month anniversary of my intercostal muscle strain. Not sure whether that’s cause for celebration or consternation.
While I no longer see my chiropractor regularly (a therapy called the Graston Technique seems to have helped), neither am I completely healed. I’m back to teaching and training, as before and am spending considerable time strengthening my core. In addition to the three exercises I was prescribed back in August (Chiropractor-approved moves for healing your intercostal muscle strain), I am once again doing rotational work and even adding light resistance to crunches and planks.
Yet, every ten or twelve days I feel that same tenderness under my ribcage and am back to icing and ibuprofen.
Usually, it’s precipitated by overexertion: lifting a 20-lb box of cat litter up and out of the trunk of my van, then twisting only my upper body to place it on the ground (note to self, always turn feet before turning arms…); demonstrating an exercise to a client, using the heavier weight that they need, rather than the lighter weight that my core can handle; an afternoon of vacuuming and window washing (what a great excuse not to do housework!).
That’s the thing about intercostal muscle strain. It takes a long, long time to heal completely. Your intercostals are used each and every time you take a breath. Turning your torso engages them. Unlike other types of muscular strains, you can’t stop using your intercostals while they heal; just hold your breath for a couple of weeks and you’ll be fine! Ha!
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of having an injury like this is the number it does on your confidence. I’m much more tentative in the gym that I used to be. Picking up lighter weights than I know I can lift. Afraid of ‘over-doing it’ and being in pain again.
The biggest challenge is finding that fine balance between strengthening weakened muscles and re-injuring them. A balance I’m working on each and every day.
Have you ever had a long healing injury like an intercostal muscle strain?
How do you deal with injuries that interrupt your training (and your life!)?