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Fractured Rib

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What are the symptoms? continued...

How is a fractured rib diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask questions about your injury and do a physical exam. The doctor may:

  • Push on your chest to find out where you are hurt.
  • Watch you breathe and listen to your lungs to make sure air is moving in and out normally.
  • Listen to your heart.
  • Check your head, neck, spine, and belly to make sure there are no other injuries.

You may need to have an X-ray or other imaging test if your doctor isn't sure about your symptoms. But rib fractures don't always show up on X-rays. So you may be treated as though you have a fractured rib even if an X-ray doesn't show any broken bones.

How is it treated?

Most fractured ribs are treated at home and will heal on their own over time. Home treatment will help you manage the pain while you heal. Pain relief can help you feel better and let you take deeper breaths.

A fractured rib usually takes at least 6 weeks to heal. To help manage the pain while the fracture heals:

While you are healing, it is important to cough or take the deepest breath you can at least once an hour. This can help prevent pneumonia or a partial collapse of the lung tissue.

If you have fractured your ribs and you have not injured your neck or back, it is a good idea to lie on your injured side. This may seem odd at first, but it will let you take deeper breaths.

In the past, it was common to tape or tightly wrap the injured rib area. But you should not do this, even if it eases your pain. It can keep you from taking deep breaths, and it could cause parts of your lung to collapse or could increase your risk for pneumonia.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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