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Sleep causing rib pain; any ideas? Strange update!

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:? Sorry folks, but who better to ask than the Omleteers? I've been to the doc. so hopefully ruled out urgent, serious stuff.


But, I'm at my wit's end through lack of sleep & thought I'd get a 2nd opinion here, although I don't mean to start a terrible pain topic when I know others have much worse things to bear. :? Just need to pool some ideas if you don't mind.


For some months (I realise with hindsight) I've sometimes woken feeling stiff around the ribcage, or had discomfort there in the day, but assumed it was a low level thing that would cure itself. It wasn't all the time, so I forgot about it in between episodes.


But, the last few nights the pain has been terrible and woken me up. At first, I was feeling rotten as it would be after about 5 hours sleep & I need about 7, but it would ease off if I got up and there's always plenty to do. :roll:


This week its been happening after only 2 hours sleep & its agony! I've taken ibuprofen/paracetemol, walked about, had a cup of tea (of course) a Radox bath (& fallen asleep for an hour) then, finding it eased, back to bed with a hot water bottle. Then, awake 2 or 3 hours later, again unable to stay lying down.


Before this, I slept really well and awoke refreshed, and I have no trouble falling asleep to start.


The pain is unbearable; I wake feeling as if there's a really heavy weight in my ribcage, in my back but not near the spine, quite low down. In a desperate bid to get comfortable I turn over, but that feels weighted too and I realise that I just can't stay lying down.


Up until a few nights ago, it felt like something unknown wrong inside, lung or something. Then I realised that perhaps it was a muscle spasm, but no idea why it's happening & want to stop it!


The doc suggested paracetemol and that it's bad sleeping posture. So, I've started a pillow topic out of desperation, but just wondered if anyone else had any ideas. Although I don't mean to start a "bad backs I have known" topic. :cry: It just seems odd to me as I haven't changed anything.

I feel so yuk now & feel as if I should go to bed early to catch up, yet also dread going to lie down....

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if it's unbearable I would go back to the gp or see another gp if poss and maybe ask for some x rays to be done?


doctors are sometimes too dismissive and don't investigate thoroughly enough, don't be fobbed off as it sounds serious.


i hope you get some sleep and some relief soon



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Poor you Sheila - that must be awful, worrying about going to sleep :?


The fact that it eases once you are up and moving does fit with a diagnosis of a muscular problem.

What position do you normally sleep in? Flat on your back, front or side?

Is your mattress soft or firm?

Just a thought, but stress and anxiety can aggravate muscle pain. I wonder if the anxiety of knowing the pain will wake you is aggravating things - creating a vicious circle?

Sorry that's not much help, but it's a start :?

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I'd go back to the GP....(maybe a different one) and ask for a referral to hospital for tests. IF it has been going on for some months and hasn't resolved spontaneously then it needs looking at.


I wonder if it is something mechanical like a disc problem.......they don't all present with the same symptoms.


Perhaps a visit it a physio or osteopath might help.


Good luck.


It is rotten to have your sleep disrupted in this way.

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.... but stress and anxiety can aggravate muscle pain. I wonder if the anxiety of knowing the pain will wake you is aggravating things - creating a vicious circle?....

:D Thanks for replying Poet & Snowy, I feel a bit of a wimp posting about it but was feeling quite desperate by then. I realised when I typed that I was sounding fearful of going to bed, but I already knew that wouldn't help. It was just that usually if I'm exhausted at least I look forward to getting to bed, whereas this time it was the opposite. But, once I went I soon relaxed & dropped off.

However, I do feel tense about work, so it is possible that my body is still fighting that when I'm asleep. Perhaps I'm stiffening up ready for battle all night & wake feeling I've done 10 rounds. I have definitle decided to step back at work & stop being the usual muggins. Usually, I love every minute but we have a new manager & I know I'm bearing the brunt of trying to prop up the place. So, as its not my job to do this, I shall try & step back and put my health first. I find this impossible to do, but I'll be useless to anyone if I carry on like this, and also my blood pressure was up.

So, that's one step, and last night I managed a clear 5 hours.

6 or 7 would do me fine, but also the pain is really upsetting me, I usually get so much done first thing.


I naturally sleep on one side & then alternate but sometimes try on back in case it helps, but prob. turn over again.


Thanks for listening! Off for another cuppa & really try & get moving.

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Hi Sheila, from what you have described I can see two main causes being the most obvious ( I work in orthopaedics so I see a lot of similar symptoms).

Firstly, thoracic spine disc degereration. This would cause pressure on the nerves supplying the rib region and would cause pain. This is most common in women with larger boobs or bad standing posture.

Secondly, intercostal ( in between the ribs) cartilidge and muscular spasm or calcifying. The spasm seems more realisic. This can once again be caused by poor posture over the years, stress and overuse.

I suggest getting a second 'professional' opinion or hassling your gp for some simple tests like x-rays.

Hope you get it sorted.

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Have you crossed a rib Sheila, that is very painful. :? Done anything strenuous? :?


I can recommend weleda arnica and lavender muscle rub. It's oil and wonderful for pain relief and the massage has a therapeutic affect too.


Drs again if no improvement :wink:


Hope it soon improves


BBxx :)

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Its a bit of a longshot, but shingles can cause unberable pain that way.


Either way go back to the doctors and pester the hell out of them. They really seem to like fobbing people off these days.

Having worked for the NHS recently I know just how much corners can be cut and how all that matters really at the end of the day is that the books balance!


Hope you get better soon.



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Shelia, can I ask,have you had a bad cough recently?


I have tthree times cracked a rib through coughing & sleeping was so uncomfortable.I would often wake with terrible pain from it.

They did heal of course, & have been fine since.


Its a longshot I know,but I thought I would ask as ribs are more fragile than most people realise :?

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Can't offer any medical advice (excellent advice already given :wink: ) - just wanted to offer sympathy and say I hope you get it sorted. There's nothing worse than going to bed scared that you won't sleep (I get that very occasionally with a persistent night-time cough and it gets unbearable eventually).


Let us know how you get on at the doctors.


(I'd offer you a <<<<>>>> but it might hurt :wink::lol: )

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I think that stress plays a big part in pains like this and I know you've had a very stressful 12 months Sheila.


If any further trips to the doctor can't find anything then a Chiropracter/Osteopath may help....... or remedial massage from someone like a Sports Physio.

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It probably isnt this but thought i would mention it just in case.


Could it be trapped wind :?

I have had this and it causes the most terrible pain in and around your ribs and like you Sheila i had a bath & the pain seemed to ease however it came back not long after i got out of the bath. Peppermint cordial worked wonders for me so it might be worth a try :?


Also i think you can get those long body pillows that pregnant women use to rest the bump on - that might be helpful in you finding a more comfortable sleeping position :?


I do hope it eases soon as a lack of sleep causes such problems.

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:D You guys are amazing, you've really helped me to crystalize my thoughts and also provided some useful extra info.


I feel that I can discount;


the shingles (although this post has reminded me that I've been having a "sensation" in this area for a long time, I remember being aware of the onesided nature of it last summer) as nothing else fits.


the cough (but great thought, I've seen it happen)


cracked/crossed rib (again, could have been) because the doc did press the area & it's not tender that way & I really don't think I've cracked one, it's not come on suddenly.


wind ( yes, that can be painful, but I'm certain this is not digestive/wind related)




love the muscle rub idea (although OH is away for 3 weeks just now...not sure if that makes more or less stress in my life! :wink::lol: )


So, it's useful to eliminate some possibilities and I think I'm down to either stress & posture, or the rest of Moochoo's post.


To eliminate further, I'm really addressing the "stress" factor and also posture. I don't think my day posture is too bad, I'm not top heavy or too heavy at all, just average, but maybe out of line pelvis & hips (through 4 prgnancies). But then, I could improve seating and remember to "walk tall" and cut back on the physical carrying/lifting a bit.


However, I really only went to the doc because I wasn't sure it was muscle spasm, and if it was, wanted to discuss cause as opposed to just taking myself off to a chiro/phyio/osteo person. If that's just what I need, fine, but I wanted to discount an underlying cause for the pain.


This is where I drew a blank with the doc. I felt she lost interest when she had made sure it wasn't life threatening, and she wanted to know what I meant by underlying cause, she didn't seem to want to go down that route at all. I didn't know what the cause might be (doh, that's why I was there) but when I pressed further she reluctantly sent me for "bloods", no mention of xray & I agreed to go away & take some more paracetemol. :roll:


Still, I suppose they have to see if it either gets better or worse, and can't put everything into 1st consultation, and assume that people go back if it's still bad. I'm not very good with that approach, I've only gone because it's been so long already & is worsening, not just at the first sign.


Oh well, I'll see how it is in 10 days or something. Or should I try a chiro type thingy anyway meanwhile? I wanted to know why it's happening before trying that though.


At least I can think a bit straighter after 5 hrs sleep, rather than 2 at a time! Thanks so much everyone! :D

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Sheila, this is a horrible worry for you and I'm sorry it is also depriving you of sleep. Not a good combination!


Do you experience the pain at any other time or is it just when lying on your side?


Intolerable pain always needs looking into, in my opinion. You need to know what is causing it. I recommend you go back to the GP next week and tell her exactly what you are worried it might be and that it is getting worse not better.


Good luck with it all - i'll be thinking of you.



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Oh well, I'll see how it is in 10 days or something. Or should I try a chiro type thingy anyway meanwhile? I wanted to know why it's happening before trying that though.


I have never been to a chiropractor before but i swear by my osteopath - she is a little wonder!!!


I have heard that osteopathy is easier on the joints - not too sure how true this is but from my experience ive been happy with the lady that sees me and it has eased all my aches and pains.


Do hope you feel better soon Sheila :D

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Eight hours hours painfree sleep last night! I'd fallen asleep sitting up, awoke after 4 hours but drifted off for another 4.

Luxury, but I can't sleep upright forever without knowing what's up.


Thank you so much for your ideas everyone. I saw an osteopath many years ago who put me off, I'm reluctant to try another. But I know a lot of osteopaths know what they're doing, so maybe I should. OH suggests chiropractor.

Either way, next time I try either I shall go by personal recommendation.

But, I shall wait until I'm feeling strong enough to go!


Er, now have temp. of 102 and feel yuk. Not surprising that I caught something when I was so wrecked with pain/lack of sleep, but :twisted::evil:


So, I'm off to bed again now. Wish I could just go & lie down. :?:(

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I'm sorry to hear you're now unwell Sheila. I hope you're better soon and that it's not connected to your rib pain. I'm wondering if the pain will return while you're lying down today. If it does, please go back to your GP on Monday!



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