Cracked Ribs

What Can You Do For Cracked Ribs?

Anyone who has experienced cracked ribs can tell you it can be very painful, and also can tell you that there's a limit as to what you can do about it. The short answer is, you find out how to best deal with the pain. The ribs will take care of themselves over time.


Bruised Ribs - First of all, a distinction needs to be made between bruised ribs, cracked ribs, and broken ribs. If you suffer from bruised ribs it is not the rib itself that is damaged, but the tissue around the rib that has been injured. This is still a painful condition, but taking medication to manage the pain, together with taking it easy physically, is about all you need to do. In fact there is really not much more that you can do.

Cracked Ribs - Cracked ribs are a different matter. Treatment is not much different than for bruised ribs, and the condition is generally no more serious. You should see a doctor though, and you will probably not need to be convinced to do that because of the pain. Consider having an x-ray taken. The purpose of the x-ray is really to verify that a rib has not actually be broken, raising the danger of an organ, such as one of your lungs, being punctured. If the rib has been cracked, there is no bone separation, and no inherent danger of other organs or tissues suffering damage.  As is the case with bruised ribs, the course of treatment lies primarily with managing the pain, and avoiding physical activity which will make the pain worse, or slow the healing process.


Broken Ribs - A broken rib is the most serious condition of the three, mainly because complications can follow. The obvious solution would appear to be to tape the chest area to hold the rib or ribs in place. This approach has been found to be generally ineffective. Taping can offer some relief from pain, at least for a time, but does little to assist in the healing process. Pain management and taking it easy physically, even to the point of learning how best to sit and lie down, and moving slowly, is the usual course of treatment.

Healing Takes Time - A cracked rib can take between a month and 6 weeks to heal. Ice packs can help, as can painkillers. If you need to be on painkillers for any length of time, it would be best to follow your doctor’s advice as to proper dosage. Painkillers, though not necessarily narcotic, can be addictive when relied upon for too long a time. Just learning how to pace yourself, and how to move around comfortably, will be the greatest challenge you're likely to face.

During the healing process you need to pay particular attention to your recovery process. It will take time, but if it takes too much time, or if the pain is beginning to increase again, you need to see your doctor without delay. While a cracked rib seldom presents a real danger, there is always the possibility that the wound could have been deep enough to expose the bone marrow. If this occurs, there is a possibility of infection, and possibly development of an abscess. In this case, antibiotics may be all that will be required, but in extreme cases, surgery could be necessary. This is a seldom occurrence, but the message is to monitor your body, and see the doctor if things do not appear to be progressing normally.

There are injuries you can suffer that are much more serious than cracked ribs, but few of them place you in a situation of not being able to do much about it. Stock up on Aleve or ibuprofen, apply ice packs, slow down, and look for someone sympathetic to your plight, and you'll make it through.