What is a rib injury?
A rib injury is a bruise, strain, break, separation, or irritation of one or more of the ribs in your chest. It can also be an injury to the tissue called cartilage that attaches the top 10 ribs to the breastbone.
What is the cause?
A fall or direct blow to the chest may bruise, strain, or break the ribs or injure the rib cartilage. Breaks usually happen in the outer curved part of the rib cage.
When a rib tears away from the cartilage, the injury is called a costochondral separation. It may result from a blow to the ribs, a fall, or landing hard on your feet. It might even be caused by forceful coughing or sneezing.
Irritation of a rib is called costochondritis. It may be caused by an infection or repeated coughing, or by overuse, like from rowing or heavy lifting. Sometimes the cause is not known.
What are the symptoms?
A rib injury causes pain and tenderness in the ribs. You may have pain when you breathe, move, laugh, or cough.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your provider will examine your chest and listen to your lungs. Tests may include X-rays or other scans.
How is it treated?
Rib injuries can be painful and make it hard to cough or take a deep breath. Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medicine.
You may need to do breathing exercises while you heal to prevent lung problems.
Rib injuries usually heal without surgery. Bruised ribs or a costochondral separation usually take 3 to 4 weeks to heal. Broken ribs take 6 to 8 weeks to heal.
How can I take care of myself?
To relieve pain and help the injury heal:
- Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured ribs every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take an NSAID for more than 10 days.
- If coughing is painful, holding a pillow against your chest may help.
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
- How and when you will hear your test results
- How long it will take to recover
- What activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
- How to take care of yourself at home
- What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
How can I help prevent rib injury?
Ribs are often injured in accidents that are not easy to prevent.
In contact sports like football it’s important to wear the proper protective equipment.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
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