Sides Hurt While Coughing – Decoding Why

Side-splitting coughing is more common than you think. There are many root causes for your side to hurt while you cough, including muscle strains, pleurisy, appendicitis, hernias, etc. In this blog, we will discuss each cause in detail to learn the methods you can use to treat the issues.

1. Muscle Strains and Painful Coughing

In case you experience a sharp, stabbing pain in your side while you cough, along with a cracking or popping sound, there is a possibility that you have strained one of your intercostal muscles. They are located between your ribs and play a pivotal role in chest movement during breathing and coughing. If you overuse them, it leads to inflammation and pain.

Symptoms that show up with intercostal muscle strain are:

  • Pain when moving the affected muscles
  • Swelling
  • Muscle tightness
  • Soreness at all times and not only during coughing

This condition is treatable with the help of OTC (Over-the-counter) medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Other than that, consider:

  • Resting for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Use a small pillow to gently brace the area when you cough.
  • Apply an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.

2. Pleurisy

When the lining around the lungs (pleura) inflames, it may result in sharp chest pain, especially when taking deep breaths, coughing, or sneezing. Pleurisy is a source of pain on either side and is often triggered by factors like infections, autoimmune diseases, and even lung cancer.

It is crucial for physicians to get to the root cause of pleurisy to reduce pain on the sides while coughing. If it is due to an infection, our expert, Dr. Fakhri Kalolwala, a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician, prescribes antibiotics or antiviral medications. Other than that, anti-inflammatory drugs can manage the pain, too. In cases where excessive fluid accumulates in the lungs, drainage may be necessary to prevent breathing difficulties.

3. Appendicitis

In this condition, your appendix (a thin tube in the gastrointestinal tract) becomes inflamed. Along with severe abdominal pain, it worsens discomfort when coughing, sneezing, or exercising, especially with pain on the sides.

Leaving appendicitis untreated can be life-threatening. Do look out for additional symptoms like abdominal swelling, constipation, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and vomiting. The standard treatment for appendicitis involves antibiotics IV and surgery to remove the inflamed appendix.

4. Hernia

A hernia is when the internal body parts, such as the bowel, peek through a weak area in the abdominal muscles or surrounding tissue. Coughing exerts excessive pressure on your abdomen, resulting in a hernia protruding or pressing through the muscle wall, leading to increased pain. Activities like running, lifting heavy objects, or straining during bowel movements worsen the condition.

Not every hernia is severe, and not all require immediate surgery or treatment. The route of action depends on factors such as size, location, and the level of discomfort. If it is not possible to push the content back manually or if blood flow to the hernia is compromised, emergency surgery is essential.

Closing Note

Side pain when coughing is not something to be worried about instantly. However, understanding the underlying issue is critical for effective management and relief from pain. It is always a good idea to get in touch with our healthcare professional at Aqeeq Internal Medicine for a complete comprehensive checkup. Do not hesitate to set up an appointment with us by dialing (832) 786-8195. You can also drop by our office in Houston, Texas.



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