First Aid

How to Treat Bruised Ribs



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Bruised ribs are extremely painful and make it difficult to partake in normal, everyday activity.  While it takes at least three and up to six weeks for bruised ribs to heal, there are ways to treat the condition to make it more bearable. This way, a patient suffering from bruised ribs doesn't have to stay at a standstill for a long period of time. 

The first step in treating bruised ribs is to make certain that the ribs are only bruised and not broken.  Broken ribs are very dangerous so it is extremely important to rule out the possibility that the ribs might be broken.  It is important to get medical attention immediately if bruised or broken ribs are suspected.  It is likely that a physician will order a chest x-ray to be on the safe side and be assured that he or she provides an accurate diagnosis. 

When it has been determined that the ribs are bruised and not broken, there are four main things to remember when it comes to treatment, activity limitation, ice, compression and pain relief.

Activity Limitation

There's no way around it. Rest is the best medicine for bruised ribs.  It's important to stay away from activities that require a great deal of chest movement, bending or lifting.  It's also a good idea to avoid activities that require increased heart rate as the rib cage expands when a person breathes.  The deeper and quicker a person has to breathe, the more pain he or she will feel. 

Ice

In the first three or four days after injury, wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the rib area.  Do this for about 15 minutes every few hours.  This will help to relieve swelling and to dull the nerves and in turn the level of pain. 

Compression

Wrap an ace bandage or something similar around the chest semi-tightly.  This should help to alleviate swelling and provide support for the ribs.  It may also help to put the nearest arm to the injured ribs in a sling or to wear a garment known as a rib belt.  These measures limit rib movement which will make pain less severe.

Pain Relief

Pain relief can make bruised ribs easier to tolerate.  Consult with a physician to determine the best pain reliever.  Sometimes strong over-thecounter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen are enough.  In other cases, a prescription pain reliever is a better option.  Pain medicine should only be taken according to instruction or by reading the directions on the box.  It's very important to not become dependent on any type of medicine.  Additionally, experiencing side effects from pain relievers is the last thing a person with bruised ribs needs, so it is very important to follow dosage instructions. 

Bruised ribs take a few weeks to heal, and there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process.  Rest and activity limitation, at least to a point, is essential.  Ice, compression, and pain medication are great in assisting pain relief, but they are not a cure all by any means.  Even though bruised ribs are painful and a major inconvenience to living everyday life, broken ribs are a great deal worse.  A person with bruised ribs should feel very lucky that they are not broken. 

More about this author: Olivia Kay

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