Tuesday 22 February 2011

Coughing, sneezing, runny nose… and a rib strain?

It is cold season.  That means not only is winter extra cold this season, but this is the season for colds.  So I take cold comfort in knowing I’m not alone in catching a cold already.  So of course I mind all the coughing, sneezing and runny nose but the straw that broke the camel’s back (or rib) is this morning, after a couple of coughs, I think I pulled a rib.  Murphy’s Law- oh how I hate thee.
From an Osteopathic point of view, I like to put things in perspective and take a holistic view of my condition.  So I first want to diagnose my pain on the left side, under my arms but above the bottom of my rib cage.  There’s some difficulty with breathing in, but feels easier when I hold my abdominal muscles with my hand to breathe.  So my self-diagnosis is a rib strain, a strain in the muscles between my ribs on my left side, possibly the internal intercostals.  These muscles are important to help us exhale.  Coughing is like exhaling, but faster and more forceful.  My logic, and as a warning to others, is all the coughing in the last few days caused my rib muscles to contract or shorten repeatedly, just like if I was doing arm curls with a dumbbell over and over, then my biceps would contract and get bigger and tighter.  In the case of my rib muscles, they didn’t get bigger but the constant coughing caused them to get tighter.  Then during this last case of coughing, when they were already tight, the last cough was enough to cause the rib strain.
So the lesson I have learned the hard way is not to let tension build up, either in our ribs, but also in our neck, shoulders, back or lower legs because this can lead to headaches, back pain, a pulled hamstring, an Achilles tendon tear or foot pain.  The good news is musculo-skeletal injuries are what Osteopaths specialise in.  The good news is muscles are easier to treat than an injury to the bone or ligaments, but the bad news is with over 600 muscles in our body, they get hurt more often.
Thus, a great man (Luke 4:23) once said “Physician, heal thyself”.  So as most therapists might do, we apply our professional knowledge to ourselves.  So using a combination of Osteopathic techniques like gentle counterstrain, fascial release and massage, I am trying to fix my rib strain and breathe easier that it wasn’t worse.  So although there are different therapies that can help, I believe all therapies can be preventive medicine.  Thus, this cold season, if you are suffering from coughing, sneezing or a runny nose, go see your local Osteopath or health practitioner to release muscle tension, improve your lymphatics and reduce congestion to speed up healing and circulation, and possibly save yourself from writing about your injury.
Dickson Wong
Osteopathic Practitioner

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