The ribcage plays one of the most crucial roles in human anatomy. With twelve ribs on each side, it creates a shield that protects hearts and lungs from trauma. Damage to the ribcage can be life-threatening if not evaluated right away.
Sometimes the injury is obvious due to a forceful impact, other times a patient tries to tough out pain without realizing they have a rib fracture. Therefore, knowing the symptoms is essential in order to obtain adequate care and prevent damage to internal organs.
Cause of Broken Rib
A broken rib, also called a rib fracture, is most often caused by direct impact from sports-related injuries, falls, or motor vehicle accidents.
The extent of broken rib injuries can range from a hairline fracture to multiple ribs that are in entirely separate pieces, known as Flail chest.
Broken Rib Symptoms
In most cases, the pain from a broken rib is instant, additional common symptoms of a broken rib include:
- Pain when breathing
- Pain when laughing, sneezing, or coughing
- Shortness of breath
Differences Between a Cracked Rib and a Broken Rib
A cracked rib is a broken rib. They’re both considered fractures. If a person suffers from one, but the rib remains in its original placement, the muscles surrounding it will ensure the bone doesn’t move any further.
With a fractured rib, the patient will experience pain when breathing. The injury can cause agony when the patient coughs or sneezes. However, with the passage of time (generally within four weeks), the pain will gradually subside.
The only thing you can do is request painkillers and wait.
However, if the broken rib has moved from its original placement or has broken into separate pieces, it could potentially damage nearby organs, such as the lungs if the injury is in one of the higher ribs, or the liver if it’s in a lower rib. If the injury places your life at risk, your doctor may recommend surgery. That said, overall, most rib injuries heal on their own.
Complications and Dangers of Injured Ribs
Since the rib cage protects the thoracic cavity, the dangers involved with trauma to the rib cage are deadly if not examined properly. A broken rib can easily puncture the aorta or another primary blood vessel, collapse a lung, damage your spleen, liver or a kidney.
Chances of fracturing a rib during impact increase if the patient has an underlying illness that affects bone density, such as osteoporosis or cancer. Being aware of your health and avoiding risks that can lead to injury is essential to protecting your rib cage and thoracic cavity.
Broken Rib Treatment and Home Remedies
Taking proper care of your injury can increase your chances of a fast recovery since most broken ribs heal on their own in one to two months.
Here are a few recommendations to help mend your broken rib, as well as warnings on what to avoid.
The items below are general guidelines for treating broken ribs. That said, always seek medical advice and follow instructions from your doctor.
- Consult with your healthcare provider about over-the-counter painkillers to help ease discomfort and reduce swelling.
- Sleep in an upright position for the first few nights.
- Ice the injured area for twenty minutes every hour after injury for the first few days. Avoid direct contact with your skin.
- Rest. Even if your hobbies include playing sports or having a full social calendar, the only way to heal properly is to give your body the time it needs to fully recover.
- Hold a pillow against your chest if you need to cough or sneeze.
- Avoid laying down for extended periods.
- Keep your ribcage free from anything that can constrict your breathing, such as bandages or tight clothes.
- Stop smoking to prevent coughing and infection.
- Don’t lift heavy objects or play sports.
While most broken ribs heal on their own over time, you should still seek medical attention to avoid complications. Especially if you have difficulty or pain while breathing.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
The complications involved with a broken rib can be serious. Thankfully, the providers at The Orthopedic Clinic are committed to restoring your health so that you can live your life in full motion.
If you think you have a broken rib, contact us and let us help you.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.