A common injury that occurs when one of the bones in your rib cage breaks or cracks is a fractured (broken rib).A fall, automobile accident, injury during contact sports (like football) are some of the types of trauma that cause a broken rib.Trauma of some type is the most frequent cause of a broken rib.Repetitive trauma such as coughing spells can fracture ribs.Some disease processes like those found in osteoporosis or bone cancer; may place you at higher risk of a broken rib.
Often times fractured ribs are not broken, but cracked. Cracked ribs are not as potentially dangerous as ribs that have been broken into two or more pieces. With broken ribs, a piece of bone can damage internal organs such as the lung or spleen; and or major blood vessels.
The principal broken rib symptom is pain.The pain is usually worsened by breathing deeply.Pain when one puts pressure on the area or while bending and twisting is also common.
Patients report a broken rib as extremely painful. Typically your healthcare provider will order one of these imaging tests if you present with symptoms (pain) in the rib area and give a history of trauma to the rib cage:
- Able to view the bone
- May not reveal afresh rib fractures
- Difficult to see a cracked rib
- Helpful in diagnosing a collapsed lung.
Computerized tomography (CT)
- Often uncover rib fractures that X-rays miss.
- Spots injuries to soft tissues and blood vessels easier.
- Allows a cross-section picture of your body’s internal structures.
- Good for viewing stress fractures when a bone is fractured or cracked due to repetitive trauma.
- Can be used to determine if a rib bone is healing from a fracture. The dye that is injected collects in the bones, especially in places where a bone is healing; this is then detected by a scanner.
- Test is expensive.Due to cost effectiveness, a bone scan is not done routinely unless there is difficulty diagnosing a broken rib or complications from a rib fracture.
Treatment of a broken rib involves adequate pain control. This important for you to be able to breathe deeply and avoid lung complications from a broken rib, such as pneumonia. Otherwise a broken rib usually heals in 1-2 months, without intervention. Using a compression wrap to splint the rib cage is not recommended because they do not allow you to breathe deeply.
Even though a broken rib can heal without medical intervention, one must be aware of serious complications. If you experience sweating, anxiety, chest pain (other than in the inured area), inability to breath, heart palpitations, and/or pale clammy skin; these are symptoms of shock. You may have multiple fractured ribs or piece of broken rib may have punctured an internal organ. You should seek medical help immediately. You can help prevent the painfulness of a broken rib by practicing fall prevention and wearing protective gear during contact sports.