What is a fractured rib?
A rib fracture is when one or more of the bones that form part of the rib cage break or crack.
What are the symptoms of a rib fracture?
This type of injury can be very painful. The most common symptoms are:
- Pain when exerting pressure on the area of the sternum/breastbone
- Pain when breathing
- Pain when laughing or coughing
- Muscular discomfort in the area
- Tiredness and difficulty moving
- Temporary insomnia
How is a rib fracture diagnosed?
The doctor will examine the area of the rib cage that hurts and listen to the lungs as the patient inhales and exhales. If a fracture is suspected, an x-ray, CT scan or MRI scan can show if a fracture is present.
What causes a rib to fracture?
The main causes of rib fractures are injuries or blows to the ribs that can occur due to a traffic accident, a strong punch and with certain contact sports such as rugby. It could also be due to repeated movements like rowing or swinging a golf club and from a very strong cough, especially if the person has weak bones due to cancer or osteoporosis.
What is the treatment?
It can take broken ribs between 2 and 6 months to fully recover. If the fracture has not affected any organ, then the following steps will be advised to help with recovery:
- Taking a break from sports and resting the affected area
- Applying ice and cold packs to the rib or ribs affected
- Taking pain medicine to relieve discomfort and inflammation
- Practising deep breathing to regain strength and to avoid a lung infection
If any internal organs have been injured, such as a punctured lung, then additional treatment and surgery may be needed.