How to Take Care of Bruised Ribs

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In order to take care of bruised ribs, take anti-inflammatory medication, apply ice and provide isolation and support to the area. Learn about braces and elastic compressors that can be used to treat bruised ribs with help from a pediatrician in this free video on bruised ribs.

Part of the Video Series: Medical Conditions & Treatments
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Video Transcript

Hi I'm Dr. David Hill and today we are going to be talking about how to take care of bruised ribs. Now ribs are open to injury because there's not a lot of ways to protect the ribs especially if you are playing contact sports or have a fall. Football players may some degree of padding. But the ribs are kind of our body's protection from the rest of the world. The stuff that's under them, the heart, the lungs, critical blood vessels, critical nerves are the parts that we want to protect the most and that's why we have a rib cage. Cause this stuff means protection. So the rib cage suffers the brunt of a lot that happens in the outside world. Now depending on where the force comes to the ribs, several different sorts of injuries can occur. A bruise can occur anywhere along the ribs, usually towards the front or the side. Sometimes as a result of a fall, or a punch, if you are feeling pain right here, chances are more likely that rather then a bruise, you have a rib that has separated from the cartilage. That's the softer tissue that connects the bones of the rib to the sternum, the bone of the chest. And ten of your twelve ribs are connected in a sheet of cartilage, so pain right here is often associated with dislocation or inflammation of that cartilage. Also you can get a fracture of the rib and that usually occurs right in this area where they curve the very most. Usually from lateral compression a sort of forward backward compression that pops them outward and that's going to be intensely painful. To figure out what's going on your doctor is going to want to do an exam, see where it hurts the most, see if it hurts more when you breath in or out or move, some part of your body. The one serious thing to consider is if you are heaving shortness of breath, you really need to get seen. Because a fractured rib may puncture the lining around the lung or the lung itself and allow air into the space between the lung and the chamber that holds the lung. That can be a life threatening condition called pneumothorax and it may need to be treated with oxygen or even with a quick surgery. However, if you are confident that it's just a bruise rib, treatment is very conservative and consists of three things. One is an anti inflammatory medication most commonly Ibuprofen, Naproxin is another that is available over the counter and there are a few others that you can use. Second is ice. You'll probably be advised to apply ice packs to the injured area every two or three hours or at least several times a day for up to two or three weeks that it can take for a rib bruise to heal. Last, might be isolation or support for that area. There are braces or elastic compressors that can sort of give the ribs a little bit of support so that they don't move as much when you breath then move and reduce the pain. That said if you are using one of these devices, you probably are going to want to check with a doctor because if you don't breath in deeply several times an hour, the lungs can actually sort of get a little squished in their air space and that can make it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs. So if you are using one of those devices you might be using with an exercise to make sure that you are taking deep enough breaths. So talking about treating bruised ribs, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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