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 some ways on how to care for 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
Common Causes of Bruised Ribs
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.
How to Care for Bruised Ribs
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 cold therapy wrap is going to 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:
Remember to seek medical attention if you have a tightness in your chest, are suffering from extreme pain, have difficulty breathing, and/or your ribs just won’t heal even after you’ve followed the tips above. Hopefully this will help you to find your way to recovery the next time that you find yourself suffering from bruised ribs. Do you have any experience with bruised or cracked ribs? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below!
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 how to care for bruised ribs was posted for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.