Broken Ribs : Treatment Options to Get You Back On Your Feet


When one of the bones in your rib cage fractures or cracks, it often results in a broken rib, which is a common injury. The most frequent cause is chest trauma, which can result from falls, car accidents, or collisions during contact sports.

Many ribs that are fractured are only cracked. Although less dangerous than ribs that have been broken into separate pieces, cracked ribs are still unpleasant. A shattered bone's jagged edge might hurt important blood veins or internal organs, such as the lung.

Usually, broken ribs heal on their own in one to two months. Adequate pain treatment is essential to maintain deep breathing and avoid lung issues like pneumonia.


As they protect your heart and lungs, your ribs are designed to withstand a lot. The back and chest can be struck hard and quickly to break them.

These could be the outcome of:

  • automobile accidents in contact sports like football or rugby
  • tough falls
  • Domestic violence or various types of violence against people
  • Your ribs and muscles may suffer greatly from years of repetitive motions, such as swinging a golf club. 
  • A rib fracture may be more likely to occur as a result of trauma from repetitively making strong motions.

Those who are most vulnerable to breaking ribs are:

People with osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones, athletes who play contact sports or who frequently perform repetitive motions involving the chest or back

People with low bone density, making bones more prone to fractures; ribs with cancerous lesions, which can weaken the bone;

How to check if you have Broken Ribs?

If you have a really sore place near your ribs that develops after trauma, or if you have trouble breathing or pain when inhaling deeply, consult a doctor.

If you have pain in your shoulder or arm in addition to pressure, fullness, or a squeezing sensation in the middle of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, you should seek medical assistance right away. It could possibly suggest a heart attack.

Risk Factors

Your chance of breaking a rib can be influenced by the following things:

Osteoporosis. You are more prone to suffering a bone fracture if you have this condition that causes your bones to lose their density.

Participation in sports. Participating in contact sports, such as football or hockey, raises your risk of suffering a chest injury.

Rib with a cancerous growth. The bone may become weaker and more brittle due to a cancerous lesion.


Having a cracked rib typically causes or exacerbates pain when you:

  • Take in a big breath
  • Press the affected spot firmly
  • Move or rotate your body.

Chest pain that occurs when breathing in is one of the most enduring signs of a cracked rib. Deep breathing makes the pain worse. A break in the skin can also cause acute pains to shoot out from the area when you laugh, cough, or sneeze.

Bending over or twisting your upper body could result in instantaneous discomfort depending on where the fracture is located. For at least a few weeks, the fracture will hurt if you strike it or press on it. The area around the break may also appear swollen and red. In some circumstances, the skin near the break may also show signs of bruising.


You could avoid breaking a rib by taking the following precautions:

Be careful to avoid sports injuries. When participating in contact sports, wear protective gear.

Lessen the possibility of household falls. Put skid-proof backing on carpets and area rugs, clear clutter from your floors, wipe up spills right away, use a rubber mat in the shower, and keep your home well-lit.

Build up your bones. It is crucial to consume enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to maintain strong bones. Aim for consuming 600 International Units of vitamin D and 1,200 milligrammes of calcium each day through diet and supplements.


Most broken ribs will naturally heal in six weeks. Activities should be limited, and the region should be routinely iced to promote healing and pain relief.


It is critical to have enough pain relief because if deep breathing hurts, you run the risk of developing pneumonia. If oral drugs are ineffective, your doctor may advise administering long-lasting anaesthetic via injections close to the nerves that supply the ribs.


After your discomfort is under control, your doctor might suggest breathing exercises to help you breathe more deeply because shallow breathing increases your risk of contracting pneumonia.

Compression wraps, which are elastic bandages that you may wrap around your chest, were once used by surgeons to assist splints and immobilise the area. The use of compression wraps for cracked ribs is no longer advised because they may prevent you from breathing fully, which may raise your risk of developing pneumonia.

Complications of Broken Ribs

Internal organs and blood vessels may be harmed by a shattered rib. The danger rises as the number of broken ribs increases. Depending on which ribs break, there are different complications. Potential issues include:

Ruptured or torn aorta. Your aorta or another significant blood artery could be ruptured by the sharp end of a break in one of the first three ribs at the top of your rib cage.

Lung puncture. A lung can be punctured by the sharp end of a broken middle rib, leading to lung collapse.

Spleen, liver, or kidney laceration. As they are more flexible than the upper and middle ribs, which are attached to the breastbone, the bottom two ribs rarely fracture. However, if a lower rib is shattered, the broken ends can harm other organs such as your kidney, liver, or spleen.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 10, 2023

Next review due: Mar 10, 2025

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