A rib fracture is a crack or break in 1 or more of your rib bones.
Your ribs are the round long bones in your chest that wrap around your upper body. They connect your breastbone to your spine.
A rib fracture can be very painful because your ribs move when you breathe, cough and move your upper body.
The ribs in the middle of your chest are the ones that break most often.
Healing lasts at least 6 weeks.
If you injure other body organs, you may need to stay in the hospital. Otherwise you can heal at home.Most people with a broken rib do not need surgery.
In the emergency room you may have received a strong medicine (such as a nerve block or narcotics) if you are in severe pain.
You will not have a belt or a bandage around your chest because these would keep your ribs from moving when you breathe or cough, and may lead to the development of pneumonia.
Apply an ice pack 20 minutes of every hour you are awake for the first 2 days, then 10-20 minutes 3 times daily as needed to reduce pain and swelling.
You may need prescription pain medicines (narcotics) to keep your pain under control while your bones heal.
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). You can buy these pain medications at the store.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be used for pain by most people
Do slow deep-breathing and gentle coughing exercises every 2 hours. Holding a pillow or blanket against your injured rib can make these less painful.
It is important to stay active. Bed rest is not recommended. Your health care provider will talk with you about when you can return to:
While you heal, avoid movements that put painful pressure on your ribs. These include crunches, pushing or pulling heavy objects, and others.
Your health care provider will make sure you are doing your exercises and that your pain is under control so that you can be active.
There is usually no need for taking x-rays as you heal, unless you develop fever, cough, increasing pain or difficulty breathing.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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