Intercostal Neuralgia

What is intercostal neuralgia?

Intercostal neuralgia is a painful disorder of the nerves that run between the ribs, and is caused by damage to one of the nerves and/or loss of function of the nerve.


The intercostal nerves run between the ribs and can be damaged in various ways. The most common cause is chest surgery, during which a nerve can be damaged.

Signs and symptoms

In intercostal neuralgia, an intense, sharp, shooting pain is felt in the chest, which radiates from the front to the back (or vice versa). Continuous nerve pain may also be felt. The skin can be painful to the touch and there is increased sensitivity to pinprick pain. The skin may also have decreased sensitivity.

How is intercostal neuralgia diagnosed?

If the symptoms appear following an operation, the diagnosis is usually clear.
If this is not the case, other causes must then be excluded. Therefore, an extensive neurological examination is important if you have chest pain.

Do I need any additional examinations?

  • Diagnostic examination for other non-physical factors important to your pain  already took place  after  you filled in your pain questionnaires.
  • X-rays and an MRI scan are performed to exclude other causes.
  • You may be referred to a pulmonologist or an internal specialist.

What are my treatment possibilities?

Multidisciplinary Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, your pain specialist will decide whether or not to embark on physical treatment. Based on the results of the completed pain questionnaire, additional examinations can be carried out and, apart from physical treatment, other methods of treatment will be suggested.

Non-physical Treatments

If the results of your pain questionnaire are abnormal, your pain specialist will offer you one of the non-physical treatments listed below:

Physical Treatments


Other Treatments

Interventional Pain Treatments


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