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The pain of broken ribs


Rib fractures are a fairly common injury. A broken rib occurs when one or more of the bones in the rib cage are cracked or broken. In the majority of the cases, broken ribs are mild cracks that are painful but not life-threatening.

The most common cause of broken ribs is direct trauma to the chest or rib cage. Athletes who participate in contact sports such as hockey and football are at an increased risk. Slips and falls are also a common cause of broken ribs. I recently had a patient who is a truck driver, crack three ribs after falling off the deck of his flatbed trailer.

Ribs can also be broken from repetitive trauma such as frequent golfing or rowing. Motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of severe rib fractures due to the increased forces present during the collision.

The pain that is associated with a broken rib is usually described as a small localized tender spot in the rib area that begins after trauma.

In most cases, fractured ribs will heal without treatment within one or two months. With severe fractures, in which the rib bone is completely broken, the potentially sharp end of the bone could puncture or lacerate blood vessels or internal organs. Both of these conditions could be life-threatening thus, it is important to seek medical attention if you suspect a broken rib and you experience pressure or squeezing in the center of your chest or significant difficulty breathing. 

If your physician suspects a broken rib, he or she may order an x-ray or other diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis. Surgery is only required in the most severe cases.

Most of the time pain-relieving medication is all that’s required.

The good news is that even severe rib fractures usually heal within six weeks.

Although it is not possible to prevent all rib fractures, there are a few simple tips to keep in mind.

First of all make sure you keep your bones strong by getting enough calcium in your diet from food and supplements.

Also, try and prevent slips and falls by wearing proper footwear.

Lastly, when participating in contact sports, it is important to wear the proper protective equipment. Until next time, drive safely.

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Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.


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