Strained Intercostal Muscles and Pregnant

Alexandra Powell Allred's picture

QUESTION

Dear Fitness Expert,
It seems I have badly strained my intercostal muscles on my right side. The soreness and pain can be pretty excruciating at times particularly when sneezing (felt an actual pop in that area tonight), coughing, and when swimming (I had to give up my 8 miles/week when I had pain when breathing). I want to get back to it slowly but this pain will not subside at all. Each sneeze makes it worse and sleeping stiffens me up.

Can I go into physical therapy for this while pregnant? I am 18 weeks along and I have had this for over a month since getting the flu and the cough strained my muscles. I need some help here. I am paranoid that this will continue well after the baby is here and I have 3 other boys besides. I am an avid athlete -- swim, bike, and run and I might just lose it if I can't exercise because of this.

ANSWER

As an avid athlete -- you know what I am going to say and you don't want to hear. Here goes: You can't play around with this. I don't know when or how the actual injury occurred but your body is talking to you right now and it's telling you to lay low.

You MUST do two things. First, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. I seriously doubt this injury will have any ramifications for the baby at this point but your doctor needs to know about this injury and head anything that might complicate your otherwise healthy pregnancy. I am assuming that yours is a healthy one given the kind of exercise routine you have.

Second, take at least two weeks off. This means nothing. I know this is hard to hear but we need to determine how serious the injury is. If it is indeed a muscle pull, two weeks will allow it to heal fairly nicely -- although there are no hard fast rules about how long it takes to heal. Mind you, with three little boys in your life, you are probably far more active than most people to begin with.

So, what does "lay low" mean? No swimming, yoga, running, walking...nothing. You must allow your muscles to recover fully. Each and every time you reach, stretch, exert yourself, you are working already fatigued and injured muscles. Also remember that this is the time of year when walking pneumonia hits an all-time high. Healthy, active people are often hit the hardest because we don't know when to stop and believe in 'pushing through' the pain.

As an athlete myself, there is nothing I hate more to hear than...'no exercise.' But as I have matured (as an athlete) over the years, I've learned that this is the wisest course. You will getting stronger faster by putting yourself on the bench for a couple of weeks. Again, two weeks may or may not be the time needed...please get back with us regarding your injury and talk to your doctor.

Lastly, I know that pregnant athletes hate more than non-pregnant athletes to take off because you are oh-so-conscious of the ever-changing, ever-expanding body. At 18 weeks, you will have a very active, healthy pregnancy ahead of you...if you are willing to sit yourself out of the playing field until you heal.

Good luck,
--Alex