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How Does a Doctor Treat an Injured Rib?

Oct 9, 2020

How Does a Doctor Treat an Injured RibIf you’ve experienced dislocating a rib as one of your car accident injuries, then you know just how painful it can be to even take a deep breath. Injuries to any part of your rib cage can be very scary because of how much pain you may experience with natural rhythms we take for granted, like simply breathing in and out. If you have started to feel pain while breathing or feel extreme tenderness over the area of one or more ribs, then you should meet with an orthopedic doctor. While mild injuries to your ribs may well be treatable at home, you want to confirm this with a doctor in order to ensure everything else your rib cage is meant to support and protect is functioning properly as well.

How Ribs Function

We tend to think of ribs as a series of curved bones that wrap around our chest and protect our lungs. What we don’t always consider is how much these bones actually move and flex with each breath we take. The ribcage is actually attached to the spine and sternum, so when you think about it the ribs actually connect to a lot of various parts of your whole upper body. A series of muscles connects each rib together to help the ribcage function and flex as a whole with each breath and movement.

The function of ribs and the ribcage are to protect not only your lungs but also other vital organs in your chest. That is why a rib injury should always be assessed by an orthopedic doctor to make sure the organs it protects have not been affected. Additionally, the rib bones and muscles that connect them help form space inside your body to allow for your lungs to properly fill up with air. When you have a fractured or dislocated rib, your doctor will want to make sure your lungs are still able to fill up with air.

Signs and Symptoms of Rib Injuries

In addition to pain while breathing in and out and tenderness to a specific area of ribs mentioned earlier, there are other signs and symptoms that you have sustained a rib injury. You may also experience chest or back pain more generally, and even experience swelling and bruising in the area. Depending on the cause of the rib injuries, such as a severe cough or illness, you may also experience pain while sneezing or coughing. Any time you experience difficulty breathing you should seek medical care.

Rib injuries can vary depending on how they were caused, and therefore their signs and symptoms may present differently. For example, an extreme force like an airbag going off in the event of a car accident can sometimes injure your ribs. An immediate blow to the area in the case of a car accident or perhaps a sports injury or even a fall can cause extreme and instant pain. However, other types of signs and symptoms of a rib injury can develop more gradually, like when you are sick and coughing or vomiting a lot, which puts a lot of strain on the ribcage. Consistently poor posture over time can also cause a rib dislocation as your muscles and supportive tissues become unable to sustain the strain.

Chiropractic Care for Rib Injuries

Understanding how the ribs connect to the spine helps clarify why chiropractic care is one of the best and most effective forms of treatments for rib injuries like a rib dislocation. Three ribs are connected to the spine by joints and one rib is connected to the breastbone via a joint as well. These joints help allow for some movement where the ribs connect to other parts of the body and flex with natural breathing movements. However, when one of these joints is inflamed or out of place, they can restrict movement and make it painful to breathe. Chiropractors identify any subluxated or dislocated ribs and use a variety of natural, non-invasive techniques to provide treatment. Chiropractic treatment for this type of rib injury generally involves loosening the muscles around the area with massage before using gentle techniques to realign the rib and joint.

Orthopedic Treatment for Rib Injuries

If your orthopedic doctor suspects you have broken a rib then they may want to do a series of diagnostic imaging tests to get a greater visualization of the area and see if anything else has been affected. This can include an X-ray or CT scan to help look for problems such as a collapsed lung or damage to other organs. Depending on the severity of the rib fracture, your doctor will talk with you about additional ways to help manage the pain at home as rib injuries can take four to six weeks to fully heal. If you suspect you have a rib injury, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our highly skilled orthopedic doctors or chiropractors at AICA to help address your pain and experience healing.


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