Cracked ribs
January 20, 2004 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever had cracked ribs? (More inside - heh)

I slipped on some wet seaweed while rock climbing at the beach yesterday and smashed the right side of my ribcage into a big rock. Although I don't see any bruising or swelling, man does it ever hurt! I'm keeping it wrapped tightly in an Ace bandage. Do I need to get x-rays or should I just wait out the healing process?
posted by Lynsey to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
You should definately have x-rays taken.

A fracture deep enough to expose the marrow could develop into a bone abscess; a lot of nerve tissue controlling locomotion of the arms crosses around that area as well. Vigorous flexing or reaching overhead could place additional stress upon those fibers.

At the best, you might have a nasty bruise that'll haunt you for roughly a week, though it's better to be safe than sorry.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2004

I cracked a rib snowboarding on November 30, and I can still feel it a little bit. It was really painful for about two weeks; it hurt like hell to laugh or cough. About all I could do was take prodigious amounts of Ibuprofen and wear a little man-girdle (kind of like a neoprene version of the Ace bandage). That seemed to help quite a lot.

It would be a wise idea to get an X-Ray just to make sure your injury isn't going to cause any other serious problems like the abscess mentioned above or having the bone poking into your lungs, etc. Other than that, there's not much anyone can do for you, as far as I know.
posted by yalestar at 1:14 PM on January 20, 2004

If it turns out to be just a bruise*:

-Ice massage at least twice a day. Take an ice cube and rub it over the bruised area until the cube is completely melted. It will be mildly uncomfortable for a bit until the area is fully numbed by the ice. Try to use a large-ish ice cube.

-Before going to bed, rub some of the extra strong Tiger Balm* on the bruised area, wrap it up in plastic wrap followed by the ace bandage and, if you can handle having a sweaty mid-section while sleeping, a sweatshirt or sweater wrapped on top of that. This should help any residual muscle soreness.

Aleve beats the pants off of Advil in terms of reducing swelling, IMO. If memory serves correct, both have a, um, dammit English brainfart...well, the longer you take them the greater the effect. Additive effect? Er...

*N.B. - IANAD (I am not a doctor) These are just some old ballet tricks for bruised ribs I would use back in the day to get through subsequent rehearsals after being dropped from a lift or repeatedly having a partner catch me too high up from a drop. Also, Tiger Balm is merely my personal preference for deep penetrating heat.
posted by romakimmy at 1:55 PM on January 20, 2004

I second (or rather, third) the advice to get the x-ray. There's not a lot they can do for a cracked rib (other than what you're already doing), but it's best to make sure that if you do have one, it's the extent of your injuries.

I also second the Tiger Balm endorsement. The stuff works like a charm on sore muscles.

And if you did crack it, I wholeheartedly sympathize. They're no fun. I cracked mine when I had pneumonia. Coughing hard enough to crack your rib: Painful. Having to keep on coughing afterward: Even worse. Yeee-owch!
posted by aine42 at 2:24 PM on January 20, 2004

For bruising, topical Arnica gel gets my vote. Excellent stuff. Apply several times a day.
posted by Feisty at 3:33 PM on January 20, 2004

Better see what Donovan McNabb does. Otherwise try and avoid sneezing, coughing, and physical activity for a couple days. If pain persists visit the doctor.
posted by brent at 5:38 PM on January 20, 2004

I slipped on some stairs once while drunk and slammed my ribs pretty hard. Hurt like hell for a couple of weeks. Since I was about 20 at the time, I was of course indestrutable, so I never went to the doctor. Probably should have.
posted by Hackworth at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2004

The problem with cracked ribs is that there is no real way to splint a rib, so you end up just wearing a soft brace of sorts and letting your body do it's thing.
* NB: IANAD either....
posted by gen at 11:23 PM on January 20, 2004

I really appreciate everyone's taking the time to advise. However, I spoke to my doctor this morning and here's what he said: "No yoga or other activities that cause the ribcage to expand or push out for 2 weeks. Even if you could feel the ends of the bones where it was broken, all we would do is make sure the broken rib isn't puncturing your lungs. You have to use your common sense as to what activities to do or not do for a couple of weeks. Also, no wrapping, since it cuts off air to the lower lobe of the lung, it may cause pneumonia."
posted by Lynsey at 9:48 AM on January 21, 2004

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