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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Bone trauma and fractures

Question: Rib pain

 toban - Fri Oct 20, 2006 11:00 pm

I am a 35 year old female. For the past 6 months, even longer, I continue to have pain in my ribs, left side. Rib area just below my breast. It is sensitive to touch and painful. If I lay on my left side for two long, becomes painful. Ribs were injured 2-3 times this past year, but never checked. Even if they were cracked and healed, why would this pain, sensitivity continue?
 Dr. Tino Anthony Solomon - Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:58 pm

Hello there,

Your symptoms may be the result of two conditions. First of all, you mention that you have injured your ribs twice in the past year, but you did not mention whether this was before the start of the pain, or after. It would also be useful if you could provide us with a more accurate timescale from the onset of the injuries to the development of the pain if it preceded it. An important first step would be to see your family practitioner and with his advice, organise a chest x-ray to have a look at the ribs. If they had been fractured and failed to heal, or healed in the wrong position (mal-union), then this would be obvious to the trained eye. If they are in the process of healing, then an area of new bone formation or 'callus' would be visible on the x-ray, also detectable to the trained eye. However, unless the fracture, if one occurred, was in the recent past it would be unlikely to cause ongoing pain as you have described.

The other more likely possibility, therefore, that may explain your pain is a condition called costochondritis. This is an inflammatory process of the costochondral junction, which is the intersection between the ribs and the cartilage at the end of the ribs attached to the sternum (breast bone). It is a condition that affects women more often than men and is benign in nature and self-limiting. Interestingly, although its origin is unknown, a description of a traumatic injury usually accompanies the story of the pain. A useful and diagnostic test would be to try and elicit tenderness over the site by pressing on the anatomical area described earlier. Tenderness over the costochondral joints is almost always found in costocondritis. If you are unsure where to touch, consult an anatomical diagram which can be found on the web. It would be sensible to also undertake some basic blood tests to ensure no underlying infectious or chronic inflammatory process is taking place and if symptoms worsen or change, then an ECG tracing of your heart to exclude a cardiac cause, which is very unlikely, is indicated. If, as I suspect, this condition is the cause of your pain, treatment is simple and involves pain control and anti-inflammatory medication. Most people recover and are pain-free within a year. I advise you to confirm everything with your doctor before self-diagnosing.

Kind regards,

Dr Tino Solomon
BSc(Hons) MBBS
Senior House Officer in Surgery[/b]
 toban - Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:06 pm

Thank you for your reply and advice..

Sorry I didn't give you enough details. The pain occured right after the injuries and continued. After the worse of the pain was over, they continued to be painful and sensitive.My ribs were injured approximately 2-3 times as the result of an abusive , now ex boyfriend who kicked and stomped my rib area 2- 3 times. None of these rib injuries were ever checked so I really don't know if they were cracked or not. Badly bruised, swollen on the surface. The injuries were about two-three months apart from one another. I would experience one injury, to the ribs, process of healing, then approximately one and half to two months later, they were injured again etc.
 Dr. Tino Anthony Solomon - Thu Nov 16, 2006 1:38 pm

Hello again,

You may well have sustained at least one, if not multiple rib fractures. I would suggest you see your doctor and arrange a chest x-ray as the first step. Even if there are still fractured ribs found on the x-ray, treatment is almost always conservative and analgesia will be the mainstay of treatment. The condition I described in my original reply, costochondritis, may be causing your pain now and can be treated symptomatically until resolution. Your local family doctor should be able to confirm this and initiate treatment.

Kind regards,

Dr Tino Solomon
BSc(Hons) MBBS
Senior House Officer in Surgery
 toban - Sat Dec 30, 2006 8:29 pm

Hi, sorry for the slow reply.

I had xrays taken of my ribs. They found a couple of old fractures. Calcium deposits on or aroudn ribs? My family doctor said there isn't anything he can do and just suggested I take Advil for the pain.

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