Have you ever had a pain or “stitch” in your side, maybe in the middle of a fit of laughter? Do you ever have trouble taking a full breath or experience pain in the side while breathing, sneezing, or coughing?
While certainly any trouble or pain with breathing should be examined thoroughly by your doctor, there is a muscular cause that you might be able to take care of yourself assuming everything else checks out okay.
Trigger points in the muscles between your ribs can cause several surprising symptoms, including:
- Rib pain
- Side cramps
- “Stitch in the Side” pain
- Difficulty breathing or expanding your chest
- Difficulty maintaining upright posture
- Pain when breathing
- Pain when lying on your side
- Pain or difficulty when twisting your torso side to side
- And pain while coughing, sneezing or even laughing!
These muscles are named the “Intercostals” because they are literally in between the ribs (yellow X’s shown in the drawing). They help to rotate the torso and most notably help to expand and contract the rib cage.
Because the rib cage contracts rapidly during laughing (as with coughing and sneezing), sharp pain can result if there are trigger points in the Intercostals. For this reason, the Intercostals have earned the nickname “Hurts To Laugh” muscles.
How do these muscles become so tight and upset?
There are a number of reasons, including heavy breathing such as during exercise or due to lung or asthma problems, slumped posture, prolonged coughing, or even a bra that is too tight. Any of these and more causes can result in the Intercostals tightening up, becoming painful and restricting your rib cage expansion.
Luckily, relieving these trigger points is often straight forward and fairly simple.
Follow the self-test and self-care tips below to identify and relieve trigger points in your “Hurts to Laugh” muscles, so you can Breathe Deeper and Laugh Longer with Less Pain!
*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.