Broken ribs


A rib fracture, which refers to a damaged bone in the rib cage, can happen due to various reasons, ranging from a simple cough to a severe injury. While car accidents, sports injuries, and other types of trauma are frequent causes of rib fractures, it is also possible to suffer a broken rib without experiencing any injury.

A rib fracture is often described as non-displaced or displaced. Non-displaced fractures are fractured bones, but the pieces were not shifted far enough during the break to be out of alignment. Whereas, with a displaced fracture, the fragments of the bone migrated so far apart that a gap formed around the fracture.

In contrast to many other types of bone fractures, a rib fracture typically responds well to rest, ice, and breathing exercises. Healing of a rib fracture usually requires at least one month. Surgery to fix a rib fracture is uncommon unless the injury that cracked the rib harmed the internal organs. A fractured bone’s sharp edge can injure major blood arteries, lungs, and other organs.


Symptoms of a broken rib include:

  • Pain which worsens with:
    • Taking a deep breath
    • Pressure on the damage rib, usually when coughing
    • Movement of chest or upper body, such as twisting or bending
  • Bruising or discoloration of the skin
  • Tenderness

Although it is possible to recover from a rib fracture at home, it is important to note that it can also lead to life-threatening complications. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical attention or go to the emergency room if there is tenderness and pain around the ribs and chest area, or if breathing becomes difficult.

When a person feels a pressure, fullness, or a squeezing sensation in the middle of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or if the discomfort extends beyond the chest to the shoulder or arm. Immediate medical attention is necessary. The following signs and symptoms may indicate a heart attack.


Fractured ribs are commonly caused by anything slamming the chest. This includes vehicle accident, falls, sports injuries, and child abuse. Golf and rowing, or coughing hard and long can also break the rib due to repeated impact from these activities.

Risk factors

There are several factors that increases the risk of getting a broken rib, such as:

  • Osteoporosis. This condition is characterized by decreased bone mass and strength which raises the chance of sudden and unexpected bone fractures.
  • Sports. Athletes who participate in contact sports are more susceptible to broken ribs. Contact sports, such as hockey or football increase the chance of chest injury.
  • Cancer in a rib. Cancer patients have increased susceptibility to fracture due weakening of bones.