Rib fracture

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What is rib fracture?

Rib fracture
Rib Fracture

Ribs are long bones of the body that make up your chest skeleton and form a joint with the breast bone (sternum) and vertebrae, kind of connecting them. These bones form a protective cage for your vital organs like heart, lungs and other organs like liver and stomach etc.

Breach in the continuity of the skeleton of the rib is known as the “rib fracture”.

What are the causes of a rib fracture?

The most common and obvious causes include a blow over the bones. The other causes include: sustained coughing (increased pressure on the ribs) and some diseases like cancers or other bone infections. Most of the time rib fractures fall into the category of sports related injuries.

What to expect after breaking a rib?

Ribs are bones that move while you respire, increasing the volume of your thoracic cavity, so if you break a rib, you will experience pain while breathing. Not only this, a broken rib may cause organ injury, if it is pointed or sharp. So it is important to get to a doctor ASAP after the injury to avoid any further risks.

What are the symptoms of a broken rib?

  • Pain- general (mild or severe) in the area injured
  • Pain while breathing
  • Rib contusion
  • Swelling

A broken rib may also cause you:

  • shortness of breath
  • to have headache
  • feel lethargic and somnolent

The above mentioned symptoms will present mainly because of shortness of breath that in turn will be because of pain in the injured area.

Ribs that are in the middle of your chest are more prone to fracture.

Treatment and care of a fractured rib:

A fractured rib takes 6 or more weeks to heal. A rib fracture may accompany severe pain if treated improperly. It may also penetrate into the walls of the surrounding organs. It is therefore important to take care if a fracture has occurred.

Rest is important for healing. Less movement means less irritation and improved healing.

Icing of the injured area should be done 3-4 times a day every 10-20 minutes. This will help the bruise clear away and relieve pain. Swelling will also subside. The ice should not directly come in contact with skin; it should be wrapped in a cloth or a towel and patted on the injured area.

Some pain medications may be given to relieve pain.

What not to do when a rib fracture occurs?

Avoid any strenuous activity that pressurizes the injured are. Also, do not wrap any bandage over the area. This may cause difficulty in breathing and increase the risk of complications.

The rib fractures usually heal by themselves and only rare cases require surgery.

Exercises for good healing:

A deep breath should be taken every two hours. Start with a deep breath for 3 seconds, then hold for 3 seconds and release for the other 3 seconds. Holding a soft pillow will reduce pain. These exercises will prevent lung infections or lung collapse.

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