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Fracture Rib


Fractured ribs are a common result stemming from trauma to the chest area. While fractured ribs are painful, they are not as deadly as broken ribs, which have the potential to pierce a vital organ or cause extensive internal damage. Many rib injuries are fractures, which make them easier to treat. Though treating the fractured bone is important, treatment and pain management are equally important to maintain adequate lung function and health.


Fractured ribs are most common during a traumatic, direct impact, but they may also be caused by a constant trauma over a period of time. Direct impacts that can fracture a rib include:

  • Abuse, especially in children
  • Contact sports, such as football, karate or hockey
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Falls A fractured rib can also be a result of a trauma that occurs over an extended period of time, such as:
  • Extensive, heavy coughing
  • Activities that rely on the trunk of the body, such as golf


    Symptoms of a fractured rib include:
  • Tenderness around an area of the ribcage
  • Pain when twisting the trunk of the body
  • Painful deep breaths The symptoms of a rib fracture are often similar to those which occur during a heart attack. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms, which are all indicators of a heart attack, not rib fractures:
  • Squeezing sensation around the chest area
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulders and down the arms
  • Recurring pain the chest area


    In order to determine the extent of the rib fracture, your doctor may request the following tests for a closer look:
  • X-ray
  • Computerized tomography (CT Scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Bone scan – Used especially for stress fractures caused by constant aggravation to the bones


    Pain management is the primary treatment of fractured ribs, as they usually heal within six weeks after the injury. To help deal with the pain, your doctor may prescribe medications, such as:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Acetaminophen
  • Naproxen
  • Stronger pain relievers, such as Vicodin
  • Nerve-blocking injections at the injury site to numb the pain


    Surgery is usually unnecessary with most fractured ribs; however, in severe cases the broken bones may be brought together with screws and a plate directly over the breakage point. If surrounding organs or tissue was damaged, surgery is necessary on a case-by-case basis.