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Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)

Intercostal neuralgia is neuropathic pain involving the intercostal nerves. These are the nerves that arise from the spinal cord, below the ribs.

Intercostal neuralgia tends to cause thoracic pain, which affects your chest wall and upper trunk.

What is Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)?

Intercostal Neuralgia is a painful condition that is often a result of nerve damage or compression in the setting of rib trauma. Intercostal nerves are responsible for innervating the muscles and tissues of body wall and rib cage. The nerves are generally well-protected during their passage via intercostal groove (on the undersurface of ribs) with the intercostal vessels.

Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)

Signs and Symptoms of Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)

Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles) presents with:

  • Loss of muscle activity
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain in back
  • Muscle paralysis

The pain might feel worse even when doing gentle physical activities, such as deep breathing or stretching. It might also intensify when you laugh, cough, or sneeze. Some people also notice referred pain in their shoulder blade or lower pelvis. Referred pain is pain that you feel in an area other than the affected one.

Causes of Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)

Any injury, trauma or disease process (such as viral infections, tumors) or surgery can lead to Intercostal Neuralgia. One of the most common viral infections that causes Intercostal Neuralgia is Shingles, which is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. 

In clinical practice, most cases of Intercostal Neuralgia are due to gastroesophageal reflux disease, nervous disorders, neurological ailments or a prior history of generalized neuralgia. Certain physiological factors (such as aging) or pathological ailments (such as a history of epilepsy) can also have an effect. 

Statistics and Epidemiology related to Intercostal Neuralgia (Shingles)

The prevalence of thoracic pain in Australian population is about 15%.

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