A strained rib cage muscle is referred to as an intercostal strain among health professionals and can produce excruciating pain according to Washington University-St. Louis' School of Medicine.. Intercostal strain is a condition that may occur in the muscles surrounding any one of the rib bones in the human rib cage. These strains are commonly diagnosed in bowlers and athletes involved in rowing sports such as kayakers, canoeists and rowers.
Intercostal strains are common in athletes but can also result from falls and sudden impacts, such as collision injuries and auto accidents. The intercostal muscles include a group of muscles located within the rib cage; these muscles cover each of the 12 bones on either side of the rib cage, and are surrounded by thick layers of cartilage. Intercostal muscle strains occur when there is a tear in the muscle wall; these strains may be mild and appear as small cracks, or be severe and present as large, noticeable gaps in the muscle wall. According to PhysioAdvisor, signs and symptoms of intercostal strains vary depending on the severity of injury, and range from a dull, aching pain to a sharp and sudden stabbing sensation that can take the breath away. This condition is diagnosed by a CT scan and may be treated with ice, rest and taping of the rib cage.