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Coughs are a common part of cold and flu season, and sometimes your cough can be so severe that you actually strain a muscle in your chest or elsewhere. Fortunately, there are steps you can take at home to help yourself heal. If you pay the PRICE and do no HARM, you can expect your muscle strain to show improvement within a few days.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The remedy for a pulled muscle is PRICE: protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. If you have pulled a muscle in your chest, compression and elevation may be difficult, but you can still rest and ice.
Protection involves keeping the area from moving. The best way to do this is to find a way to control your coughing. Ask your doctor to prescribe a cough medicine, or speak with your pharmacist and have her suggest an over-the-counter remedy that will give you relief so your pulled muscle can heal.
Controlling your cough is also the best way to rest the damaged muscle. Limit your movements and try to sleep to give the muscle time to heal.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15 minutes every two hours to reduce inflammation and swelling. Place a thin T-shirt between your skin and the ice pack, and remove the pack immediately if the area should turn white.
Compression also helps prevent swelling. If you have your coughing under control and can do so comfortably, try wrapping an Ace bandage around your chest, but make sure it’s not so tight as to cause you discomfort or difficulty breathing.
Ideally, the affected muscle should be elevated above the heart. This may be difficult if you have pulled a muscle in your chest. Try propping yourself up with some pillows or lying on the side opposite the muscle pull.
For two to three days after the injury, avoid HARM--heat, alcohol, running and massage--so you don't aggravate the injury further. Don’t apply heating pads or take hot baths, don’t drink alcohol, avoid vigorously moving the muscle as much as possible and don’t massage the muscle. After two or three days, once the threat of inflammation is past, you can apply heat to the affected area, move it gingerly and massage it gently.
You can take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin to help with pain and inflammation or acetaminophen (Tylenol), which will give you pain relief only. Check with your doctor before doing so if you are on any other medication to make sure that you won’t have a drug interaction.
See your doctor if your pain is severe, if you have tenderness around a bone or if your symptoms don’t begin to improve in a few days.