An intercostal nerve block is a type of medication injected into the patient to help relieve pain and discomfort in the chest, or abdominal area. This treatment, which is available in Spring Hill Pain Management and Spine Care, is deemed as an excellent analgesia for patients with rib fractures, post-surgical discomfort, or a condition called slipping rib syndrome.

Slipping rib syndrome happens when the patient’s lower ribs become displaced causing pain on the chest. This condition is also known as rib tip syndrome, painful rib syndrome, clicking rib, or interchondral subluxation, and affects middle-aged women more than men. 

Symptoms and Causes of a Slipping Rib Syndrome

The signs of this condition differ from every patient. According to our pain management doctor in Spring Hill, the pain may occur on one side of the body, but there have been reported cases where both rib cages are affected.

The most common indications that a person could have a slipping rib syndrome include:

  • An intermittent stabbing pain emanating from the back and the upper abdomen
  • A dull or uncomfortable sensation in the same body area 
  • Clicking or popping when moving the body, particularly in the lower ribs
  • Difficulty in bending, and lifting as pain intensifies
  • Problems with breathing 
  • Some pain when coughing or sneezing

An injury or trauma to the body is one of the many causes of slipping rib syndrome. A person with weak chest muscles may also develop this condition without any injury or trauma to the body. Conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and severe cough may cause the ribcage to slip as well. 

Slipping rib syndrome is often underdiagnosed despite a lifetime prevalence of 20-40%

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Treating Slipping Rib Syndrome with Intercostal Nerve Blocks

The human body has 12 ribs per side. The intercostal nerves, which travel from the thoracic spinal nerves to the chest, are found inbetween two ribs so the human body has 11 intercostal spaces. Intercostal nerve pain can radiate from the thoracic area and around the chest because of the inflammation.

An intercostal nerve block procedure that’s conducted by our pain management doctor in Spring Hill entails an anesthetic and steroid treatment that reduces the inflammation. Under our expert’s hands, this is administered with an X-ray as a guide to ensure that the medications go through the right nerves.

Before the treatment, however, the doctor will have to clean the skin in the rib area with an antiseptic. Then, using a thin needle, the doctor will insert the anesthetic to help the patient relax. A second needle will then be inserted for the intercostal nerve block procedure. 

This normally takes 30 minutes to complete and the patient can go home after the treatment. Some restrictions might also apply for a few days, such as no driving, or no taking a bath in the bath tub or pool for a couple of days after the injection.

Effects of Intercostal Nerve Blocks

Pain relief from intercostal nerve blocks varies with each patient. Some patients feel the effects of the injection last for several months. The effects, however, don’t happen until two or three days after the injections are done. With periodic injections, it’s possible for a patient to live with virtually pain-free ribs. 

Intercostal nerve blocks are generally safe and the most common side effect of this treatment may be a pain in the injection site. In extremely rare cases, the lungs might collapse and the indications of this include shortness of breath and severe pain in the chest. If this sounds familiar, seek immediate medical attention.

Learn more about Spring Hill Pain Management

Pain Management & Spine Care’s Medical Director, Dr. Eyad Alsabbagh, is a fellowship-trained Interventional Pain Medicine pain doctor in Hernando County. He is trained and educated to provide the highest quality of service to patients suffering from multiple conditions, varying from narcotics addiction to back pain. He utilizes state-of-the-art technology at his pain management clinic in Brooksville.

Dr. Alsabbagh understands that pain is a very personal experience. This is why he evaluates each patient’s individual needs and determines what sort of treatment will be most beneficial for that particular person. Our goal is to help you ensure a fuller, pain-free life.

If you have further questions about nerve blocks, or anything that is related to pain management, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment or to contact us.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.