We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Cervical Rib?

By Brenda Scott
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
TheHealthBoard is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At TheHealthBoard, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The human skeleton has 24 ribs, 12 on each side, which are attached to the vertebral column in the back. The top seven ribs, called true ribs, are connected in the front to the sternum, or breastbone; the next three ribs are attached to one another by cartilage; and the bottom two ribs, called floating ribs, are unattached in the front. In rare cases, an additional rib is found in the neck, between the bottom neck vertebra and the first rib. This additional rib is called a cervical rib. A cervical rib generally appears on one side, though occasionally a person may have one on each side.

A cervical rib is a congenital condition, which means it is present at birth, though it is often not diagnosed until adolescence or later when symptoms and complications are more likely to arise. This condition, which appears more frequently in women than in men, is usually asymptomatic, meaning that there are no physical indications that it exists. In some cases, however, problems arise because the rib places pressure against the blood vessels or muscles going through the neck into the arm. Determining whether this rib is present requires an X-ray, sonogram, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other computerized tomography (CT) scans.

When symptoms do occur they often include pain in the neck and arm, tingling in the arm and hand, and weakness or muscle atrophy in the arm. This can be caused by pressure from the rib against the blood vessels and muscles going from the neck into the arm. One vessel which can be affected is the subclavian artery, the part of the main artery to the arm that passes under the clavicle, or shoulder blade. Symptoms of this complication include forearm pain, coldness in the hand and arm, numbness in the fingers, and a bluish or white tint to the arm.

Most people who have a cervical rib do not display any symptoms and remain unaware of the condition. In such situations, no treatment is required. Other patients begin to experience symptoms as they enter middle age, perhaps as a result of changes in posture and muscle tone.

If the symptoms are mild, physical therapy can help strengthen the shoulder muscles and open up the area through which the vessels and nerves travel to the arm. Posture and strengthening exercises, ultrasound, electro-stimulation therapy, heat therapy and chiropractic manipulation are frequently effective treatments. In some cases, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications are also prescribed to alleviate pain.

In cases where the symptoms are extreme or a decreased blood supply poses a risk to the arm, a procedure called a rib resection may be recommended to remove the extra rib. Surgical removal of clavicle ribs began in the early 1900’s, but this difficult procedure often resulted in nerve and vascular damage. In recent decades rib resection has become safer and more successful with the introduction of endoscopic surgical procedures that use small incisions, video, and computers.

The complications that may accompany a cervical rib are similar to those of several other conditions. If a person experiencing these symptoms discovers that he has this type of rib, he should not necessarily assume that the rib is causing his discomfort. It is important to undergo a complete physical exam to make certain that a more serious condition is not present before developing a treatment plan.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon287581 — On Aug 26, 2012

I am suffering with exactly the above said symptoms for 12 years, but they have been left untreated and now I am 30's, and the problem is worse. Can a proper doctor treat me correctly in Hyderabd? Please help me.

By anon214114 — On Sep 13, 2011

Is a cervical rib more prevalent in certain cultures?

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

TheHealthBoard, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.