A fractured rib involves a break or crack in one of the bones in the rib cage. Damage in the cartilage that links the ribs to the sternum is still considered a fracture even if the bone itself is not damaged.
The usual reason of a rib fracture is a direct strike to the chest, usually from a fall or vehicular crash. Excessive coughing can also cause a fracture. This is likely to occur if the individual has a condition that causes the weakening of the bones such as osteoporosis or cancer.
What are the indications of a fractured rib?
- Minor to intense pain in the damaged area
- Pain while breathing
- Pain around the site of the break if the breastbone is pushed.
If the individual could not breath normally due to the injury, he/she might have the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Restlessness, anxious or scared
- Tired, dizziness or sleepy
When an individual has a fractured rib, it can be managed at home and heal on its own over time. Treatment at home aims on managing the pain as the injury heals. Relief from the pain can make the individual feel better and allow him/her to take deeper breaths.
A fractured rib typically takes at least 6 weeks to fully heal. You can help manage the pain as the fracture heals with the following:
- Ensure that the individual gets enough rest
- Apply an ice pack over the injured area
- Provide pain medications such as ibuprofen. The doctor might prescribe a stronger variant if the over-the-counter medications are not effective.
During the healing period, it is vital to cough or take the deepest breath possible at least once an hour. This can prevent the development of pneumonia or partial collapse of the lung tissues.
If the individual has a fractured rib and has not injured the back or neck, it is best to have him/her lie down on the injured side. Even though this seems odd initially, it will allow the individual to take deeper breaths.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a fractured rib is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage broken fractures including the ribs, register for a first aid and CPR course with Kelowna First Aid.