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Rib fracture (Broken Rib): Symptoms, Causes, Healing Tips

by icontrolmyhealth
Rib fracture

The ribs are located in the chest cavity, the cage-like bones that safeguard the human heart and lungs. Numerous layers of muscles join the ribs to each other. A broken rib is a common injury when any of the bones in the human rib cage is cracked or broken. The most common reason for a rib fracture is chest trauma caused by a motor vehicle accident, fall, or impact during contact sports.

Broken rib Rib fracture symptoms

One of the most common symptoms of a broken rib is:

1. Chest pain

  • Individuals can experience chest pain while breathing, laughing, sneezing, or coughing. Inhaling can even hurt deeply.

2. Pain during body movements

  • individuals can experience discomfort on the location of the fracture while twisting or bending the upper body. Pressing or striking the fracture may lead to pain for some weeks.

3. Swelling

  • individuals may also encounter redness and swelling in the damaged rib area. In some cases, individuals can also experience bruises on the skin near the discomforted area.

Causes of broken Rib fracture:

  • Car accidents.
  • Contact sports like rugby or football. Athletes who engage in repetitive motions can experience back and chest pain.
  • Individuals with a rib that has a cancerous lesion, which causes weakening of the bone.
  • Hard falls.
  • Individuals with osteoporosis decrease bone density. Osteoporosis increases the chances of fracture in an individual.

Repetitive actions, such as swinging a golf club, can also take a severe toll on an individual’s muscles and ribs.

How to diagnose a broken rib?

If the individual encounter any discomfort or symptoms of rib fracture, they must visit the healthcare provider for a detailed examination of the pain. After the inspection, the healthcare provider may suggest the patient with the following imaging tests to confirm the condition of the rib.

1. Bone scan

  • In this diagnosis test, a small quantity of radioactive dye will be inserted into the patient’s vein. The dye, known as the tracer, can be spotted with a scanning instrument; moreover, this dye will gather in areas where bone healing is taking place, like the area of a fracture. This procedure helps spot stress that is caused by repetitive motions.

2. Chest

  • X-ray is an imaging test that aids the healthcare provider in viewing the fractures. However, an X-ray may not provide a detailed view of the hairline fracture.

3. Chest CT scan

  • This test can help the healthcare provider high lightly view more minor fractures in the patient’s chest, which may not be highlighted in an X-ray.

4. Chest MRI scans

  • The healthcare provider can suggest this diagnostic test to check for any muscle or tissue injury.

How to treat a broken Rib fracture?

  • Earlier, the healthcare provider used to treat the broken rib by wrapping the torso tightly to keep the fractured rib from moving. However, this treatment can cause difficulty in breathing and respiratory issues like pneumonia.
  • Presently the fractured rib is left to treat on its own without any bandage or supportive device. The healthcare provider will prescribe pain relief medications according to the patient’s health condition.
  • Individuals can apply ice to the discomforted area to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Individuals are advised to sleep in an upright position in the stare of the rib fracture.
  • Severe rib fractures that cause breathing difficulty may lead to surgery. In some cases, this may include using screws and plates to stabilize the ribs while they heal. Moreover, the surgery involves less discomfort and a shorter healing period than leaving the fractured rib to heal independently.

What is the healing period for a broken Rib fracture?

The healing process depends upon the patient’s treatment for the fractured rib. The broken rib will take almost six weeks to heal on its own. During this period, the patient must avoid actions leading to any rib injury. To prevent further rib injury, an individual must avoid the following:

  • Lifting heavy objects.
  • Sports.

During the healing process, the patient is advised to do the following:

  • Walk
  • Move their shoulders occasionally to avoid the development of mucus in the lungs.
  • Holding a pillow against the chest during coughing can ease the pain.
  • Cough to clear the lungs.

Complications caused by a broken rib.

The complications of the rib fracture depend upon the severity of the injury.

  • A severe break in one of the three top ribs can injure the large artery that comes from the top of the human heart and transfers blood to maximum body parts.
  • Rib fractures can cause complications like punctured lungs. A fracture in one of the middle ribs that leads to a jagged bone edge penetrating the lung can lead the lungs to collapse.


  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/broken-ribs/symptoms-causes/syc-20350763#:~:text=A%20fractured%20rib%20occurs%20when,or%20impact%20during%20contact%20sports. Retrieved on 21 Oct. 22
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/broken-rib#outlook retrieved on 21 Oct. 22
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326109#recovery-time recovered on 21 Oct. 22

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