Intercostal neuralgia is a pathological condition related to the group of diseases of the peripheral nervous system. This pathology is also called thoracalgia. It is characterized by compression or irritation of the intercostal nerves, which is accompanied by a fairly intense pain syndrome. In general, such a violation does not pose a serious threat to the health of a sick person. However, it leads to a decrease in the quality of life and the development of psycho-emotional stress.
The prevalence of intercostal neuralgia among the population is not very high. According to statistics, it accounts for about nine percent of all pathologies from the peripheral nervous system. Moreover, most often this condition is diagnosed in the age range from twenty-five to sixty-five years. Among children, it can also be detected, but much less often. It is worth noting that any dependence of this pathological process on the floor is not traced.
Caution regarding intercostal neuralgia is due to the fact that sometimes it indicates the presence of other serious diseases in the body. An example is pleurisy or tumors in the spinal cord, chest, and so on. In addition, often such a disease in its clinical manifestations resembles a heart lesion, especially if it has a left-sided nature. In this regard, this condition requires increased attention.
Intercostal nerves are mixed. In other words, their composition includes not only motor, but also sensitive, as well as sympathetic fibers. In total, the human body has twelve pairs of intercostal nerves. Each of these pairs extends slightly below the edge of the corresponding rib, namely in the region of the intercostal space.
There are a large number of factors due to which intercostal neuralgia can develop. Most often, it is associated with thoracic or common osteochondrosis. As a result of osteochondrosis, compression of the intercostal nerves occurs at the place where they exit the spinal canal. In addition, arthrosis and scoliosis often play a role in the formation of this pathology . In the event that a person has suffered traumatic effects on the chest or spine, the likelihood of this disease in him increases significantly.
In some cases, intercostal neuralgia has an infectious nature. As a rule, most often irritation of nerve fibers is associated with herpes zoster. Sometimes this pathological process can indicate benign or malignant neoplasms, aortic aneurysm, insufficient intake of B vitamins in the body, as well as acute or chronic intoxication of the body.
The most favorable prognosis has such intercostal neuralgia, which occurs with excessive physical exertion, prolonged exposure to an uncomfortable position or with sudden movements. As a rule, it has a short-term nature and in most cases passes independently.
Symptoms of intercostal neuralgia
The main symptom in this disorder is extremely intense pain. It has an acute character, goes along the intercostal space and encircles the chest. Sometimes the pain syndrome grows gradually. In other words, at first it has a moderate character, but over time, it intensifies more and more. In some cases, a sick person indicates the spread of pain to the area of the scapula, heart or epigastrium.
As a rule, the duration of a pain attack does not exceed two or three minutes. After this, the pain subsides, however, after a while it may return again. In order not to provoke symptoms, a sick person reflexively tries to limit his motor activity, to avoid sharp turns or breaths. Directly at the peak of the attack, the patient holds his breath, as it causes an increase in pain. Between seizures in the intercostal space, various sensitive disorders can be noted. Sometimes the clinical picture is supplemented by redness or pallor of the skin, as well as increased sweating.
Separately, it is worth considering shingles. In general, its symptoms are not much different, however, a mandatory point is the formation of a specific rash along the intercostal space. On average, it appears in the period from the second to the fourth day from the onset of pain. Sometimes rashes are preceded by a sensation of moderate skin itching. The rash itself is represented by vesicles, which then shrink into yellowish crusts. After their disappearance, hyperpigmented foci remain in the affected area for some time.
Diagnosis and treatment of the disease
Diagnosis of this disease is based only on complaints and a general examination of a sick person. The most important point is to establish the cause of the pain syndrome. In this case, first of all, it is necessary to differentiate the pain associated with irritation or infringement of the intercostal nerves from the pain syndrome in cardiac pathologies. Of the additional research methods, chest x-ray, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, electrocardiography, ultrasound diagnostics and much more can be used. All these studies are aimed at identifying the underlying disease and the exclusion of cardiac and gastrointestinal disorders.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs designed to relieve pain are primarily used to treat intercostal neuralgia. With their inefficiency, intercostal blockade is indicated. The rest of the therapy is selected depending on the cause of the developed condition.
Prevention of intercostal neuralgia
The main method for the prevention of this pathological process is the timely treatment of diseases from the spine and the prevention of injury.