Broken Ribs Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Ribs are the most important parts of the body protecting the inner organs. Even a minor discomfort in the ribs may seriously disturb everyday activities. What if the ribs break or get injured? How easy is it to deal with broken ribs? Read through this HealthSpectra post to learn everything about the broken ribs and ways to deal with it.

Breaks or cracks in one or more ribs cause the broken rib condition. Chest trauma is the common cause which results from a fall or an accident.

  • Cracked ribs are not as dangerous as ribs broken into pieces.
  • In case of a jagged edge of the broken bone, the major internal organs or blood vessels may get impacted.

While broken ribs heal on their own in a few months, pain management is the challenging part. During the healing period, it is important to avoid lung complications too.

Major Causes For Broken Ribs:

Direct impacts are the major reason for broken ribs. Accidents like falls, motor vehicle accidents, contact sports, and child abuse are main reasons. Also, repetitive trauma from rowing, gulf, and even prolonged coughing leads to breaks and fractures in the ribs.

Symptoms Of Broken Ribs Include:

Pain is the major symptom, which worsens when you:

  • Feel pressure on the broken area
  • Are taking deep breaths
  • Twist or bend the ribs

If you can’t breathe normally because of your injuries, it may cause:

  • Shortness in breath
  • Anxiety, restlessness, or get scared
  • May develop headaches
  • Feel tired, dizzy or sleepy

When To Visit A Doctor?

Any pain in the chest area should not be neglected and a doctor’s visit is a must. Specially when you overcome a trauma in the chest area or feel the pain while breathing deep.

An immediate medical attention is required when you:

  • Feel fullness or pressure
  • Squeezing pain in the centre of the chest
  • If the pain is extending beyond chest to shoulder region

Your doctor may ask:

  • When the symptoms begin?
  • Where is the pain?
  • Are the symptoms occasional or continuous?
  • Do you feel severe pain?
  • What is the cause?
  • Does any action improve or subside the pain?

Risk Factors For Broken Rib Condition:

The factors that increase the risk for breaks in ribs:

Osteoporosis – Disease where bones lose density and become susceptible to injuries.

Sports participation – Contact sports like football, hockey, etc. increases the risk.

Cancerous lesion – Cancerous lesions in the ribs weaken the bones, making them more susceptible to breaks.

Complications Linked With Broken Ribs:

The 2 two main jobs of your ribs include:

  • Protect organs in the chest.
  • Help breathe by keeping space open inside your chest leaving space for your lungs to fill up with air.

Broken ribs may injure internal organs as well as blood vessels. More the number of breaks, more is the risk. Complications vary based on the location of the break. They mainly include:

Torn or punctured aorta – Break on one of the first 3 ribs of the rib cage may rupture major blood vessel or aorta

Lacerated spleen, liver or kidneys – Broken lower ribs cause serious damage to kidney, spleen or liver.

Punctured lung – A broken middle rib may cause puncture in the lung.

How to Prevent Broken Ribs?

Take preventive measure and be careful to avoid injuries or breaks in the ribs.

  • Be safe and protect yourself from athletic injuries and when playing contact sports, by wearing protective equipment.
  • Avoid the household fall risks.
  • Remove clutter regularly and floors, use rubber mat in the shower, clean spills immediately, keep home well-lit.
  • Strengthen your bones by consuming enough Vitamin D and calcium. Maintain at least 1,200 mg calcium in daily diet and 600 International Units of vitamin D.

How To Diagnose Broken Ribs?

Doctors diagnose broken ribs by physical examination like a giving a gentle press on the rib area. The physician may use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs or watch rib cage move while breathing. One or many imaging tests may be wanted by your medical practitioner.

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X-ray: X-rays make bones visible and help reveal fresh rib fractures formed due to cracks. Also, a collapsed lung can be diagnosed using X rays.

Bone Scan: Helps view stress fractures, where bone is cracked after repetitive trauma. A little radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream. It collects in places where the bone is healing

CT Scan: Uncovers the rib fractures left unidentified by the X rays. Also, injuries to blood vessels and soft tissues can be seen

MRI: Gives a picture at the organs and soft tissues surrounding the ribs. More subtle ribs can be identified. Cross-sectional images can be produced using a magnetic and radio waves.

Treatment For Broken Ribs

Restricting activities and rest helps bones heal on their own. Even, icing helps with pain relief and healing. Other methods of treatment include medications, therapies, etc.

Once the pain gets into control, breathing exercises may be suggested by the doctor to help breath deep. Shallow breathing is associated with the higher risk of developing pneumonia.

Tips To Quickly Cure Broken Ribs:

  • Go for OTC painkillers for relief.
  • Hold an ice-pack against the broken rib area.
  • Take time to rest.
  • Breath normally.
  • Cough with a pillow against your chest.
  • Try sleeping uprights more.
  • Do not tightly wrap tape the injured rib area.
  • Avoid it even if it eases pain.

In a nutshell, broken ribs can heal on their own, given enough rest. Try taking deep breaths or cough at least once an hour while healing. Thus, you prevent pneumonia or a partial lung tissue collapse. Lie on the injured side to easily take deep breaths.

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