Rib injuries include rib fractures, cracks or bruises to the bone. Soft tissue structures can also
be affected, such as muscle or ligament injuries. It often follows a traumatic accident such as
during contact sports or a car accident. It is important to have a professional evaluate you if you
suffer from chest pain and trouble with breathing. Often ribs are only cracked, but a broken rib
can be dangerous and needs urgent medical treatment. Repetitive actions can also lead to rib
injuries, such as coughing, playing golf or rowing. The presence of osteoporosis will make it
more likely for a rib injury to occur.

Symptoms of a fractured or cracked rib:
● Pain with breathing deeply
● Pain when pressure is applied over the injured rib
● Palpable “step” over the rib surface
● Pain when bending or twisting the body
● Pain with going down stairs or running
● Pain when lifting the arms over the head

X-rays can be undertaken to diagnose a rib fracture. Rib injuries can be difficult to treat, as
unlike other injuries, the chest wall is difficult to immobilise. Pain and discomfort during
breathing will therefore likely persist while the injury is healing. Rib injuries mostly heal with rest
and pain management. Physiotherapy can however help with pain management, to normalise
breathing and to prevent chest and back stiffness. Your physiotherapist can also help you to
regain sporting activities after a rib injury by prescribed individualised strengthening and mobility
exercises. Massage and dry needling can be used to treat associated muscle pain and stiffness
as well.