The pain of bruised ribs is unlike that of many other injuries. They usually result from direct trauma or a blow to your chest. They will often cause shallow breathing, due to intense pain. Depending on your individual symptoms, home care or medical treatment are called for.
Humans have 12 ribs on each side of their chest. They have the perfect design to protect the organs in the chest cavity and aid in breathing. Only seven ribs on each side are actually attached to your breastbone. The others do not meet it.
You may suffer broken, bruised or separated ribs if you have chest trauma or direct injury. Even though their pain is often extreme, they usually heal completely.
What Causes Bruised Ribs?
Contusions or bruises may occur on ribs, as they can on any other bones in your body. Bruised ribs may be caused by injury to the upper abdominal or chest areas. This causes your ribs to push on their surrounding muscles, and that’s what causes the bruises. This type of injury is common among contact sport athletes.
Car accidents and other injuries of high velocity may also impact the chest, causing bruised ribs. You can even bruise your ribs by a simple slip and fall.
Sometimes repeated coughing from bronchitis, pneumonia or whooping cough may cause a bruising of the ribs.
Chest pain resulting from a bruised ribcage may be quite painful and take time to completely heal. Identifying the cause of your bruised ribs will help your physician to plan your treatment and care.
Complications & Symptoms of Bruised Ribs
Common symptoms of rib bruising include:
- Pain or tenderness when you touch the affected area
- Extreme pain on deep breathing
- Intensified pain when moving
- Shortness of breath
- Visible bruising at the injury site
- Constant, sharp pain on ribs affected
- Difficulty in lying on injured side
- Unbearable pain, if a rib is fractured
There are some complications of bruised ribs, including lung infection and pneumonia. They are brought on due to the difficulty in expanding the lungs fully. If you have a fractured rib, the sharp end could puncture your lung. This is a serious medical emergency.
Treating Bruised Ribs
If you have bruised one or more ribs, immediate treatment includes complete rest and the reduction of your activities. Other means of healing bruises on the ribs include:
- Application of ice packs on ribs affected, for pain relief
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications and pain killers like ibuprofen – Some physicians may prescribe stronger pain medications, like narcotics.
- Avoidance of binding the ribs or chest, to lower risk of pneumonia
- Taking periodic deep breaths to expand your lungs
- Protecting your chest from further injury, with your arms
- Avoiding rigorous activities or sports that could exacerbate your rib injury
It could take three weeks to a month for the healing of your bruised ribs. However, if your injury is severe, it can take much longer, perhaps as long as 10 weeks, to heal. Call your physician if you experience any of the symptoms we mentioned above, so that you can avoid medical complications or delayed healing.
Home Remedies for Bruised Ribs – What to Do & What NOT to Do
- DO take pain relievers so that you can breathe more deeply. Shallow breathing and not coughing will increase the risk of infection in the lungs.
- DO take some time off your job, especially if you have severe pain and if you have a very physical job.
- DO breathe as deeply as you can, to fully inflate your lungs.
- DO apply ice wrapped in a towel to your ribs, to reduce pain and swelling.
- DON’T smoke cigarettes or cigars.
- DON’T use a bandage to wrap your chest, as this can prevent your lungs from fully expanding.
- DON’T do heavy chores or move suddenly.
When should you See a Doctor?
See your physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room immediately if you experience any of the symptoms below:
- Increasing chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fever or cough
- Pain in abdomen or shoulder
These specific symptoms could be signs that you have a broken rib, a lung or chest infection, or even a collapsed lung. Your physician may prescribe pain medication, but if you need additional treatment, your doctor will send you to a local hospital.
Diagnostic examinations like chest x-rays, CT scans or ultrasounds may be done, in order to confirm or rule out internal damage. If further specialized treatment is required, your physician may call in a cardiothoracic surgery specialist.
Speed up Healing of Bruised Ribs
If you’re into DIY home remedies and you’ve been to see your physician with a diagnosis of bruised ribs (not broken ribs or similar serious injury) you may want to try:
- Bathing in lavender essential oils and Epsom salt
- Using compresses with added raw apple cider vinegar
- Drinking one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses tea in a cup of water once a day – It includes potassium, iron and magnesium, which help in supporting your body as it is healing.
One teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of water three times each day – If you find the taste unappealing, you can buy curcumin in capsules, and that’s the active ingredient in turmeric.