Broken ribs usually occur from a direct impact on the chest or torso (such as in a car accident, severe fall, or hard hit in a contact sport). However, some diseases, such as osteoporosis and bone cancer, can seriously weaken the ribs (and other bones). They can cause them to break just from strong coughing or normal twisting or lifting. Generally, broken ribs will heal on their own in a month or two if you are relatively healthy. However, knowing how to treat them yourself will greatly reduce your pain. In some cases, broken ribs puncture your lungs or damage other internal organs, which can be life-threatening and require emergency medical attention.
Method 1 of 2: Confirm your rib injury
Step 1. Go to the emergency room for treatment
If you injure your chest or trunk and experience significant pain, especially when breathing deeply, you may have a broken rib or two. This can also be accompanied by a more serious injury, so it's important to get medical attention. Sometimes a "crack" can be heard or felt when a rib breaks, but not always. This is especially true if the rib breaks where the cartilage end connects to the breastbone (sternum).
- It is important to seek medical attention after a significant rib injury. The risk of injuring your lungs, liver, or spleen is much greater if a rib breaks into sharp pieces (as opposed to a hairline crack). The doctor will confirm the nature of the rib fracture and make recommendations accordingly.
- Chest x-rays, CT scans, and diagnostic ultrasound are tools your doctor may use to better understand your rib injury.
- Your doctor will likely give you a prescription for strong pain relievers or anti-inflammatories if your pain is severe. He may also recommend using over-the-counter options at home if your pain is tolerable.
- A potentially fatal complication associated with a badly broken rib is a punctured or collapsed lung (pneumothorax). A broken rib can also lead to pneumonia.
Step 2. Talk to your doctor about a corticosteroid injection
If the broken rib is stable but causes moderate to severe pain, your doctor may suggest injecting a steroidal drug, especially if torn cartilage is involved. A corticosteroid injection near the injury can quickly reduce inflammation and pain. This allows easier breathing and increases the mobility of the upper body.
- Potential complications after corticosteroid injections include infection, bleeding, local muscle / tendon atrophy, nerve damage, and weakened immunity.
- Another type of injection your doctor might give you is an intercostal nerve block. The drug numbs the surrounding nerves and stops the sensation of pain for about six hours.
- The overwhelming majority of those with broken ribs do not need surgery - they heal quite well on their own with conservative (non-invasive) care.
Method 2 of 2: Treat your ribs yourself
Step 1. Do not bandage your ribs
In the past, doctors have routinely used compression wraps to splint and immobilize the area around broken ribs. This practice has fallen out of favor because of the increased risk of pneumonia, or pneumonia. Do not try to bandage or bandage your ribs.
Step 2. Put ice on the broken rib
For the first two days, for every hour you are awake, place an ice pack (a frozen gelatin bag or a bag of peas from the freezer) on your injured rib for about twenty minutes. Then cut it down to ten to twenty minutes three times a day, if necessary, to reduce pain and swelling. Ice causes blood vessels to contract, which reduces inflammation and helps numb the surrounding nerves. Cold therapy is appropriate for all forms of broken ribs and is essential for any musculoskeletal injury.
- Before placing the ice pack on the injured area, wrap the ice pack in a thin cloth to reduce the risk of frostbite.
- In addition to stabbing pain when you breathe, you likely have moderate tenderness and swelling over the break point. In addition, the surrounding skin is likely to be discolored blue, which indicates some internal damaged blood vessels.
Step 3. Take over-the-counter medications
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin) are short-term remedies that help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with your broken rib (s). NSAIDs do not necessarily stimulate healing or speed up the pace of recovery. However, they can provide relief and allow you to do simple everyday activities (or even go back to work after a few weeks if you mostly work sitting down). Remember that NSAIDs can be bad for your internal organs (stomach, kidneys). So try not to take them every day for more than two weeks. Follow the instructions on the package insert for the correct dosage.
- Children under the age of 18 should never take aspirin as it has been linked to Reye's syndrome.
- As an alternative, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, but they don't affect inflammation and are worse for the liver.
Step 4. Avoid moving your core
Exercising a little lightly is not a bad idea for most musculoskeletal injuries because exercise is necessary to stimulate blood circulation and healing. However, avoid cardio exercises, which make your heartbeat and breathing significantly faster, for the first few weeks, as this can irritate and inflame your broken rib. Additionally, minimize the rotation (twist) and flexion of your trunk as your rib heals. Walking, driving, and computing should be okay. But avoid the most strenuous household chores, jogging, lifting weights, and team sports until you can breathe deeply with very little or no pain.
- Take a week or two off in a pinch, especially if your job involves physical labor or lots of jarring movements.
- Ask your family and friends to help you around the house and garden while you relax. Avoid lifting and discuss with your doctor whether or not you should drive.
- You will inevitably have to cough or sneeze at some point after breaking your ribs. Therefore, consider holding a soft pillow against your chest to cushion the shock and minimize pain.
Step 5. Adjust your sleeping position
Broken ribs are particularly problematic when you sleep at night, especially if you sleep on your stomach, on your side, or if you roll around frequently. The best sleeping position for your broken rib (s) is likely to be on your back because it puts the least amount of pressure on them. It might even help to sleep more upright in a comfortable lounge chair for the first few nights until the inflammation and pain subsides a little. You can also support yourself in bed with pillows behind your head and back.
- Don't neglect your lower back if you need to sleep in a more upright position for a few nights or more. Placing a pillow under your bent knees takes the pressure off your lumbar spine and helps prevent back pain.
- Place a full-body pillow on one of your sides for support to prevent you from rolling on your side at night.
Step 6. Eat well and take supplements
Broken bones need adequate nutrients in order to heal properly. Therefore, eating a balanced diet rich in minerals and vitamins is a great strategy. Focus on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy products, and loads of purified water. Adding extra nutrients to your diet could also help speed the healing of your broken rib. So consider adding some calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and vitamin K.
- The rich mineral sources include cheese, yogurt, tofu, beans, broccoli, nuts and kernels, sardines and salmon.
- On the other hand, avoid consuming items that interfere with bone healing, such as alcohol, soda, fast foods, and refined sugars. Smoking also slows healing of broken bones and other musculoskeletal injuries.