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What are the Symptoms of a Bruised Rib?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In most cases, the most prominent symptom of a bruised rib is pain. This pain will typically be worse when moving or twisting the torso. For some people, there is also significant pain when breathing, and individuals with bruised ribs usually experience severe pain when touching the area of the injury.

The symptoms of rib bruising can be especially difficult to deal with because they affect almost everything a person does. Standing, walking, and bending are all likely to be very painful. This can make it difficult for a person to continue her normal daily tasks, and sometimes people have to miss a lot of work, especially if they have physically-challenging jobs.

It’s also commonly difficult for doctors to treat any kind of rib injury, including a bruise. The rib bones can’t be put in a cast, and it’s very hard to immobilize the area of a rib injury. The most common approach is to ask the patient to rest and avoid movements that might cause pain. It’s also usually important to avoid any kind of re-injury, and that can be difficult for some people whose jobs put them in risky physical situations.

When trying to endure the pain from this injury, some people use ice on the spot where the injury occurred. The actual pain from the injury is usually centered in the muscles surrounding the bone, and an ice pack can reduce any inflammation or swelling that might occur. Another common approach is to take some kind of anti-inflammatory medicine. This would usually be ibuprofen, since it is generally easier on the stomach and less expensive than many other choices. Doctors may also prescribe more potent prescription painkillers if the injury is severe enough.

Bruised ribs are usually associated with some kind of violent physical trauma. A good example would be falling from a high place and landing forcefully on a rib. People who play contact sports, like boxers or football players, are very vulnerable to these kinds of injuries. Sometimes it is possible to get a bruised rib from a lengthy bout of severe coughing, but this is generally less common.

Individuals should take the symptoms of a bruised rib seriously. These symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of a broken rib, which can be much more serious and potentially lead to severe complications, including collapsed lung. An X-ray can determine whether the rib is broken or bruised.

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Discussion Comments

By anon995901 — On Jun 07, 2016

I am an 11 year old girl and my left ribs hurt a lot. I think it might be because I hit my left rib three times really hard on the table. I also did archery for the first time in physical education class. I am also under so much stress from trying to get straight A's. So why do I have pain in the ribs? Please answer.

By anon976629 — On Nov 04, 2014

I fell off my bike and the very heavy bike fell on top of me. Now it really hurts to bend over, laugh, cough, walk (a little bit), etc. Do I have a broken, cracked or bruised bone?

By Miamin — On Nov 03, 2014

I was punched while on my side on the floor and was punched hard on my side. It felt like my rib cage moved and I was winded.

I went for an X ray and was told that they could not see a broken rib but that sometimes X rays you don't always see hairline fractures. Is this true?

It hurt when I coughed, laughed, sneezed, put my seat belt on in the car and when getting out of bed for weeks. Now it's been about six weeks and I have a chesty cough and it still hurts a lot but mainly when I cough, so not like before which was nearly all the time.

Is it possible I have a rib out of place? I read that ribs can move if trauma has occurred.

Should I bother going back to the hospital? They did not seem to want to x-ray me again and they didn't, so am thinking that there may be no point in seeing my doctor about the continuing pain. He may just say the same: rest, rest, rest. I guess not a lot else can be done even if your ribs move out of place. Anyone know about this? Many thanks

By anon352391 — On Oct 22, 2013

My husband fell while taking his morning run. He was finishing up and sprinted towards the end and lost balance and fell to the cement. His hand and forearm got pretty scrapped up. His right side of his hip/ rib area got pretty scraped up as well. He is very sore and thinks maybe his ribs are bruised? Or maybe just the pain from the fall and the big scrapes in that area.

He felt nauseated when he came in to rinse off his hand and almost threw up. That was two days ago and he is still very sore. Could it be his ribs?

By anon308246 — On Dec 10, 2012

I fell in my bedroom at night. My hubby had turned off the night light. I landed on my nightstand. I woke in horrible pain and of course it happened on a Friday night. I did not get to the doctor until Tuesday. It has been just over nine weeks now and I still have pain.

I was telling this to a client yesterday, who is also a doctor and he said it is my diaphragm hurting, and that it takes longer to heal. I was surprised because the pain is in the middle of the rib cage. He recommends more rest. I wonder will this ever end?

By anon296822 — On Oct 13, 2012

I think I have a "bruised" rib. I can breathe okay but if I blow my nose or sneeze it's terribly painful. I am doing a 10k race (walking) tomorrow. Do you think this is wise?

By parmnparsley — On Apr 28, 2011

I just wanted to point out that it is important to do breathing exercises when suffering from a bruised rib cage. Prolonged rib trauma and shortness of breath can cause the lung to collapse or lead to pneumonia.

Exercises can be simple, and can help to gently stretch the ribs. All you need to do is inhale just until the pain is too much, hold for five seconds, and then exhale.

If you do have bruised or broken ribs, it is not a good idea to wrap the area too long because it can lead to lung pneumonia or collapse. You should only stabilize the ribs if you are doing strenuous activity for short periods.

By PelesTears — On Apr 26, 2011

@chicada- Broken or bruised ribs are definitely painful. I bruised my ribs in a hard fall playing soccer and it was horrible. The only thing that cut through the pain was Vicodin and ice.

The area was swollen as if I had an arm tucked under my skin. The ice helped to numb the pain and reduce the swelling. The painkillers helped quell the pain and also acted as an anti-inflammatory. It took about five days for the swelling to go down, and about five weeks for the area to completely heal. I can only imagine what it would have felt like to have fractured ribs.

By chicada — On Apr 24, 2011

I used to play football and I have suffered a number of injuries. One of the most aggravating injuries to suffer is a bruised or cracked rib. A running back trucked me and I ended up with bruising in a couple of my ribs.

The worst part was breathing. The pain of sitting and turning was only temporary, but breathing pain was constant. Taking deep breaths was especially hard. Strenuous workouts would end in me being unable to catch my breath. Yawning was also horrible.

I am not sure if this is the case for all rib strains, but it is definitely the case when with the upper ribs. It also seemed like it took forever for the injury to heal. My chest was tight for about two months.

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