Treating Bruised or Broken Ribs

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What Causes Rib Injuries?

Bruised or broken ribs is an injury that is typically caused by chest trauma. The most common ways for this injury to occur is from falling or a severe blow to the chest from a motor vehicle accident or direct impact while playing contact sports. Bruised ribs can also occur from self-inflicted, excessive coughing.

Bruised or broken ribs is an injury that is typically caused by chest trauma.
Bruised or broken ribs is an injury that is typically caused by chest trauma.

When suffering from a rib injury, the injury will typically heal itself. Bruised ribs heal between two and six weeks. A broken rib that is cracked will heal in approximately six weeks. It’s not necessary to immediately see a doctor unless you are unsure of the exact injury and require x-rays. While any injury is painful, if your pain can not be tolerated, seek immediate medical attention. Also, if your ribs are broken rather than merely cracked, you must see professional help.

Ribs that have been broken into separate pieces rather than a rib being merely cracked, is an extremely dangerous injury. A sharp or jagged edge of a broken bone can damage your lung, other internal organs, and may cause internal bleeding.

How To Diagnose Rib Injuries

There are ways to decipher whether or not you actually have either broken or bruised ribs when suffering from trauma to the chest.

• Pain increases every time you take a deep breath.

• You can physically see bruising on your rib area.

• The injured area hurts immensely when you turn and twist your body.

• If pressure is applied to the injury, it is painful when even slightly touched.

How To Treat Rib Injuries

If you have bruised or broken your ribs, the injury will heal itself in a manner of weeks. You can treat bruised and broken ribs yourself. Although, if the pain is too much to handle, you will need to seek professional help. If you are certain your ribs are bruised or merely cracked, follow these recommendations.

1. ICE
Put ice on the injured area to reduce the pain and swelling for at least the first 72 hours. Do not use a heating pad, only ice. You can use a frozen bag of vegetables if no ice is available.

Take an over the counter pain medication. If the pain is still too much to bear, see your doctor. The doctor will be able to prescribe you stronger medication.

Limit all physical activity if possible. It is best to take off work for at least a few days. The more you rest, the quicker you will be able to heal. Try to lie on the injured side, it will help you to breathe easier. Try to remain still in a position that is comfortable for you.


• Try to take at least one deep, slow breath an hour.

• Do breathing exercises. This will help with not developing any complications such as pneumonia.

• If you are a smoker, do not smoke.

• Do not bandage your ribs. It will restrict your ability to breathe.

Final Recommendation

If symptoms persistently get worse, you need to seek professional medical attention. You could have developed severe complications or the break may be worse than you originally thought. A doctor will be able to perform x-rays, prescribe the proper medication, and provide further treatment if necessary.


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