Bruised Ribs

How To Deal With Bruised Ribs

Bruised ribs are the least serious of the major kinds or rib injuries, certainly less of a problem than are broken or separated ribs, and even less severe than a pulled rib muscle. While the healing process of bruised ribs may be quicker and involve less pain than is the case with the other types of rib injury, pain is still an issue, and it can be intense.

A bruise is a collection of blood in the area of an injury or trauma. When that area is close enough to the skin we can see this collection of blood as a discoloration. If a sufficient amount of bleeding has occurred, the skin may be pushed outward, forming a lump, called a hematoma. As the ribs lie fairly close to the skin, if several of the ribs are involved, the bruise may be quite large and ugly looking. Needless to say it will also be painful, and quite tender to the touch.

As painful as bruised ribs can be, you can always thank your lucky stars that the injury wasn't more severe. The rib cage needs to expand and contract as we breathe, and if ribs are separated or broken, the rib cage cannot be put in a cast without danger of incurring a serious lung problem, such as pneumonia. Even applying a wrap around the ribs, with the intent of placing a little pressure on the bruised area to minimize pain when moving or breathing, is discouraged. A light wrap or band is sometimes used in the case of a separated or broken rib, but not with a bruised rib or a pulled rib muscle.

Ice, Rest, Stretch - Treatment of bruised ribs usually starts with an application of ice to the bruised area as soon as possible after the injury has occurred. Ice packs should be placed on the affected area at regular intervals up to 48 hours, the total length of time depending somewhat on the size of the injury. The application of ice will soothe the pain, but more importantly, keep the swelling to a minimum, hastening the healing process and lessening the amount of pain that will certainly be felt in the coming days.

While the rib muscles need to be exercised as a part of the healing process, complete rest is advised for the first two days. If the bruise is at all severe, breathing may be uncomfortable and exercise will probably be the last thing that comes to mind. One does not have to be confined to a bed, but moving about during this two day period should be kept to a minimum.

Make Certain Only The Ribs Are Involved - If the bruising appears to be severe or especially painful, seeing a care provider is a good idea. Not only might the provider be able to prescribe something to lessen the pain and discomfort, but there is always the possibility of a rib having been separated, cracked, or fractured. In such a case, an examination would be in order to ensure the lungs, or any other organs protected by the rib cage, have not been damaged. As far as pain relief is concerned, there are numerous over the counter medications available, ibuprofen usually being the medication of choice.

Start Exercising Gently - After a few days, a program of exercising the rib cage can be started. Don't head straight for the gym, but do some simple stretching exercises to start with. While the ribs heal, it's best only to exercise to the point where it begins to feel uncomfortable or slightly painful, and not push things beyond that point. As the days pass by, it should be possible to exercise more strenuously, but still taking care not to push too much or too fast. If there seems to be little progress, and the pain is lingering, it's best to consult with a care provider. If healing is not happening, something besides bruised ribs may be an issue.  

Eventually, normal activities can be resumed. The healing period will depend upon the severity of the bruise, and the number of ribs involved. It at some point, athletic activities are going to be taken up again, and the ribs are still slightly tender, wearing a protective jacket or vest may make sense. Choose something that will protect the ribs without immobilizing the rib cage in the process. Healing bruised ribs is something that most anyone can handle, common sense being an important factor.