Intercostal neuralgia refers to irritation of the nerves that run along each rib in the thoracic region.  The intercostal nerves are branches of the thoracic nerve roots.


The intercostal nerves run between the ribs and can be damaged in various ways. The most common cause is chest surgery, during which a nerve can be damaged.


In intercostal neuralgia, an intense, sharp, shooting pain is felt in the chest, which radiates from the front to the back (or vice versa). Continuous nerve pain may also be felt. The skin can be painful to the touch and there is increased sensitivity to pinprick pain. The skin may also have decreased sensitivity.


Numbing medication with or without cortisone can be injected around the intercostal nerves to help diagnose if thoracic pain is due to intercostal neuralgia.