Chest Wall Strain

Injury can overstretch a muscle on the front or back of the chest wall. This is called a chest wall strain. The injury may occur during play or sports. It may also happen during repeated coughing or when lifting a heavy object. Symptoms include sharp pain and soreness. However, no serious injury or permanent damage is present.

Muscle strain can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medicine for pain and swelling. Pain from a muscle strain usually resolves within a week.

Home care

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine for pain and swelling. If the chest is strained from coughing, a cough medicine may be prescribed. Follow the healthcare provider's specific instructions. Don't use any other pain medicine unless you check with your healthcare provider first.

  • Rest as needed.

  • Use cold, as directed. It can help reduce swelling and pain. Wrap a cold pack or bag of frozen peas in a thin towel. Apply this to the affected site for up to 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times a day. Don't apply cold for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

  • Hold a pillow to the affected area when coughing. This can help ease pain from the injury.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Pain not relieved by medicine.

  • Numbness or severe pain that lasts longer than 1 hour

  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or fast breathing

  • Pain that continues for longer than 7 days

  • Trouble moving normally

  • Loss of strength

  • Redness developing, swelling, or pain getting worse and not better

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