Most people like to think that dealing with a bruise is as simple as slapping some red meat on it and allowing it to take care of itself. While this might be true in the movies, sometimes bruises require a little more…specialized help. That is, real science and real treatment. In today’s article, we are going to cover the topic of bruised ribs. Specifically, the symptoms, common situations that cause bruised ribs and what to do with bruised ribs.
What Are Bruised Ribs?
Often confused with broken ribs, bruised ribs occur when you injure your ribs but they do not break. Think of it as the similarity between a sprained wrist and a broken one. While bruised ribs are still something to be taken seriously, it is often something that you can deal with yourself, in the comfort of your own home, unless you start dealing with shortness of breath, severe pain and discomfort that may require a doctor’s consult. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Tenderness or swelling around the rib-cage area
- A visible bruise around the injured area
- In some cases, you can feel twitching (spasms) in the chest muscles
Because the rib-cage takes up quite a bit of torso space, it often takes the brunt of the force during an accident or fall. Here are some of the most common ways people have bruised their ribs:
- Car accidents – Car accidents are particularly common for bruised ribs, as they often end with the person hitting the steering wheel/dashboard with their chest. This can injure and bruise the ribs.
- Sports injuries – Whether it’s a stray ball, a tackle, MMA fighting or a baseball bat gone awry, sports injuries are also common causes of bruised ribs or rib fractures.
- Bad falls – This often happens when you are using a ladder or chair to reach for something that’s out of reach (i.e.: cleaning, putting up Christmas lights, etc.).
- Strenuous activities – Activities that often require repetitive (and strenuous) movements (e.g.: lifting weights, jobs requiring heavy lifting, etc.) can sometimes lead to bruised ribs.
- Extreme coughing fits – Although rarer that the ones mentioned above, a severe coughing fit has been known to crack or bruise a rib, especially in older people.
There are many different ways you can bruise your ribs. The list above is just to give you an idea on what could have caused it, if you happen to wake up one day with pain in your rib-cage area and you are wondering what you could have done. Keep reading for tips on how to care for bruised ribs.
What To Do With Bruised Ribs – 5 Tips
As we mentioned above, bruised ribs can often be taken care of from the comfort of your home, without medical attention. This should only be done if you know/suspect your ribs are bruised and not broken. If you have suspicion that they might be broken, or you have difficulty breathing, pain in the chest, etc, a doctor should have a look to make sure that you haven’t injured yourself more seriously. Here are a few ways you can treat your bruised ribs:
- Apply cold therapy to reduce swelling – Using an ice pack, or even better, a cold therapy wrap for ribs, can offer you the most relief in terms of pain. Since bruised tissue means that you are going to be dealing with swollen tissue, cold therapy (ice) has great benefits when it comes to short and long-term treatment. This is especially important for the first 48-72 hours and then as and when needed afterwards (which can be a few weeks or more). The main thing that the ice helps with is to reduce the swelling and inflammation in the affected area. If you don’t take care of those two right away, you are delaying your body’s natural healing process. The cold also numbs the nerve endings in the damaged area, which will give you some relief from the pain.
- Rest as much as you can – The key thing with bruised ribs is time. Time and rest will be able to help them heal faster, better, and with the minimal amount of pain and other side effects. Unless the doctor says otherwise, you should cease your workout schedule and keep from lifting anything or twisting your torso until your ribs are entirely healed. If you do it too early, you may end up making things worse. Also, when we say “rest”, we don’t mean to stop all movement. It’s still important for your body to keep moving to promote the healing process, just avoid things that make the pain worse, or that may have caused it in the first place.
- Avoid standing for a long period of time – Standing will put pressure on your ribs, so you should avoid doing this for an extended period of time. This is why taking time off work may be required, depending on what you do.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication – In some cases, the pain might be significant enough that you’ll want to consider the use of pain medication. Just a note on that, it’s important not to use Ibuprofen in the first 48 hours of having bruised your ribs, since it may slow down the healing process. There are other alternatives if you need them., but whatever you decide to take, please check with your doctor ahead of time.
- Light stretching – Once your body has had time to recover a bit, you may enjoy a bit of relief by implementing a daily routine of light stretching. Here’s a video with a few exercises to give you an idea:
We hope you find these tips useful. However, we strongly recommend that you consult a doctor whenever you find yourself in this situation. Only they can provide you the necessary treatment for your particular situation, especially if you feel tightness in your chest, are suffering from extreme pain, have difficulty breathing, and/or things don’t improve. Have you ever had to treat bruised ribs or fractured ribs? If so, we’d love to hear from you and how things worked out. Just leave a comment below!
- Rib injuries – Better Health Channel
- Do I Have a Broken Rib?
- 5 Tips on How to Sleep with Broken Ribs
Disclaimer – As we’ve mentioned before, we are not health care professionals here at SimplyJnJ. We simply research and write about things that we care about, have worked for us and want to share with others. Today’s topic on how to get what to do with bruised ribs was posted for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.
9 thoughts on “5 Tips on What To Do With Bruised Ribs”
This did not help my boyfriend and I after a football game. He got tackled really hard. The doctors said he full be fine just ice it. Well ice does not help he sits and does nothing. Nothing has helped.
I’m really sorry to hear that. Ice therapy usually does a great job at reducing the swelling and taking some of the pain away, especially in the first few days of an injury. Maybe you can go back to the doctors and ask for other recommendations? His situation might be different and may need alternative treatments. I really hope he gets some relief soon.
I had rib contusion about 5 weeks ago and reinjured from heavy sustained breathing (grieving loss of loved one) I woke up in pain. Should I care for it again with ice rest and nsaids? Is it common to reinjure? Please advise.
Hi Katie. I’m sorry to hear about your loss. If you think you re-injured it, I would go back to your doctor ASAP to get an idea on the damage that might have been done to it. Hopefully it didn’t get worse. It’s hard to say what treatment you’ll need. As for re-injuring it… I’ve seen it happen to the same person a few times, but the common cause is not letting it heal properly in the first place (i.e.: they didn’t rest enough).
Three months ago, I fell in the shower and broke two ribs on left side as verified by x-ray. One month ago, I fell and landed on the railing of a playpen, heard and felt a POP in ribs on right side. X-rays did not reveal a break. Although the broken rib was very painful, recovery was easier that this time with the bruised ribs. It hurts more throughout my right side rib cage. I have used ice, used a spirometer from hospital, some over-the-counter meds. It actually feels worse now than it did to start with. Will see doctor again a week from today. Any suggestions on what else I can do in the meantime. Even sleeping is miserable.
Sorry to hear that Janet. Rest as much as possible if you can so you don’t aggravate the situation. I’ve heard that some people have had success with alternating between an ice pack and a heating pad. As long as the swelling has gone down around the affected area, you can always try that to see if it helps a bit. (10-15 minutes of each, then wait a few hours, then repeat). Hopefully your doctor will have other things you can try. Good luck!
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Fell in tub onto cast iron tub side. X-rays show nothing broken. Many bruises up side. Extreme pain and difficulty breathing, but ER Dr.-prescribed opioids and Tylenol to help. Sleep in recliner, with king-size fluffy pillows behind back and under bottom. Find heating pad on spine/back brings comfort, helping distract mind from pain. 4 days out – finding walking and stretching improve breathing. Continuing meds. Take opioid at night to rest and 1x during day when needed. Take 3 Tylenol after waking, at bedtime, and one time during day. Spend day sitting at computer, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning up kitchen, straightening up house – minimal action activities . Went shopping w husband; walking helped a lot, minimal pain except when twisting torso quickly. Still can’t lie on squishy bed. Use spiralator daily.
I’m really sorry to hear that you hurt yourself June, however I do appreciate the info you provided. I’m sure it will help others. Sounds like you are slowly managing the pain and improving a little bit every day. That’s great.