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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Bone trauma and fractures

Question: Bruised, Cracked or Broken Ribs?

 Vellorian - Tue Jul 24, 2007 1:44 pm

I'm 38, male.

Yesterday I went to Six Flags. I was on the Tidal Wave, a ride where you go down a steep, watery incline, then hit water at the bottom to splash your car and people on a bridge. I bent down to avoid getting splashed, placing my rib cage against the crashbar. The full weight of my body slammed into the bar and knocked the wind out of me.

I was sore, but not thinking a lot about the pain. We rode three more roller coasters, by the time I rode the last one (which was after a break for dinner), I was in serious pain. I was screaming through the whole ride, not from excitement but from the pain of getting jerked around.

I can't tell if the ribs are cracked or bruised. I don't think they're broken. I know that bone breaks feel like and the "electric shock" pain isn't present. I'm able to move about pretty well, but lying on my back is exceptionally painful.

I'm wrapped with ace bandages and have put Tiger Balm on the skin around the painful areas. I've also been taking Arnica Montana. There's been marked improvement since yesterday, but I still hurt.

Wondered how you can tell, without an X-Ray, whether it's a bruised bone or a cracked bone?

Any other suggestions for non-invasive (I consider an X-Ray "invasive") treatment? I've not been in enough pain to warrant pain killers.

And how long will this hurt?
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:53 pm

User avatar Hi Vellorian,

Both a cracked rib and a bruise could easily explain your pain. Fortunately, both are treated the same-time, rest and pain medicines as needed.

There really is no way to differentiate the two without an x-ray. If you are getting better you probably don't need the x-ray.

Rib fractures and severe bruises can take several days to really feel better and several weeks to completely heal.

Best wishes.
 Vellorian - Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:38 pm

It's been a week and a day, now.

I'm still hurting. I can't run. I can't sneeze. I can't cough. I can twist about in bed a little better. I'm not sure if the pain is gone of if I've simply learned to live with it.

I have eschewed pain pills because the day after I took them for the first time, I was in more pain--like I did too much the day before.

Today something was different, though. On the left side, the more injured side, it felt like there was some "shifting" taking place. It wasn't really painful, just strange.

It felt as though my ribs either shifted against one another or against some cartilidge or something. It was almost a "grinding", though it only lasted for a moment.

There was no extra pain, but it did hurt when I did moved so that it caused that "shifting" sensation.

I'm seeing my doctor tomorrow on a routine visit, but I'm going to definintely mention the injury.

Someone today said that rib injuries "never go away", is that true?
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Wed Aug 01, 2007 7:31 pm

User avatar It certainly sounds as if you may have a fractured rib. Having your doctor assess this is a good idea.

Rib injuries do go away. Unfortunately, sometimes they end up getting flares of inflammation in the originally damaged area that can be a bit painful. This inflammation is generally well managed by anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.

Best wishes.
 Vellorian - Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:27 pm

I saw my doctor today. He's of the opinion that it's either a crack or a bad bruise. Either way, it'll hurt for awhile.

Sometimes it seems like it's getting better (I can get in and out of bed with only a little pain, now) and at others it seems worse (every formerly comfortable position I could sleep it causes pain--which has damaged my sleep patterns--and I'm extremely sore and achy in the mornings).

He listened to my chest a lot with the stethiscope while I breathed and didn't have any indications of a break. He felt around and said my responses to his touch seemed more in line with a bad bruise or a crack. He offered to send me for x-rays. I asked if it would make a difference to the treatment--"no". Why waste my HMOs money and have invasive, damaging rays sent through my body if it won't help? I opted not to go.

Thanks for your responses, by the way. :)
 RevelationVoice - Thu May 28, 2009 6:30 pm

i actually have a questoin on whether or not my ribs are just bruised or in fact broken.

I'm a 15 year old girl and last friday i was involved in a physical fight with my boyfriend. it got quite violent and afterwards i was in severe pain. i am still having trouble taking deep breaths even though it has been a week. my ribs still ache and i can still see bruising. im not sure what is wrong.
 Tom Plamondon PA-C - Thu Jun 04, 2009 3:45 pm

User avatar Hello,
Sorry to hear about the injury.

Pain during deep breathing can results from strained or sprained muscles between the ribs, contusion (bruising) of the rib area, fracture of the ribs, or irritation of the lining of the chest cavity (less likely from trauma).
Also, the lung tissue can be punctured or damaged releasing air into the chest cavity (pneumothorax).

It is good to have chest x-ray done following trauma to the ribs especially with lasting pain. And take the appropriate amount of pain relief meds to help make breathing easier.

Obviously, you should review the overall situation to evaluate the need for some lifestyle changes to prevent further problems. Trusted friends or family or church members often provide wisdom during times like this.

Take care.
 brynstac - Thu Sep 10, 2009 7:16 pm

I am a 37 yr. old male.9 days ago i got hurt at work.I had a hood for a paving machine crush me between it and the battery compartment of the paver.I had a tooth knocked out,split lip,cut on my left cheek from my face smacking the battery.I also smacked the upper battery compartment with my chest,knocking the wind out of me.I had a hard time catching my breath because everytime I would breathe in my chest would hurt.I also bruised my left knee and an abrasion on my lower back and right leg.As of today all the pain is gone except for my chest.The emergency room did a x-ray and a cat scan of my chest which all they said was nothing was broken,which is good.The question I have is that everytime I cough,try to sneeze(I've had to sneeze but hurt to bad to do so) or hic-cup(which is the worst pain of them all),I get a really bad pain in my sternum area.Is that normal this long after an injury or should i go see another doctor on this?As for my ribs,like I've read in a previous post,it hurts mostly at night laying down and turning over in my sleep,causing loss of sleep and disrupted sleep pattern.But that pain i can deal with,the sternum pain does hurt bad...any knowledge or advice would be appreciated..thank you
 Tom Plamondon PA-C - Tue Sep 15, 2009 8:22 pm

User avatar Hello,
The rib cage attaches to the sternum or breastbone near the midline of the chest. Since you have traumatized the chest cavity without fractures or punctured lungs, we would treat this as contusion to the chest or costochondritis.
Pain management is very important to allow for deep respirations.
Consult for family physician for pain meds.
Other than that it will take at least 3 weeks for healing.

Take care.
 johnnynobody - Wed Dec 02, 2009 4:52 am

Sounds like what I HAVE, the other night I asked a friend to pop my back, stupid I know, he bear hugged me pretty hard. All that popped was my sternum, it hurt pretty bad, its been a week and the pain has seemed to peaked on the left side of my chest. I felt for knots, I seem to have both on each side though this one seems larger. I assume its just bruise of something, any clue?
 aml121 - Tue Feb 09, 2010 11:29 pm

I was playing in a basketball game the other day and I went up for a lay up and got fouled. After I had hit the floor a player landed on me and knocked the wind out of me. It took a couple minutes before I was breathing normally again. I continued playing in the game and a also in a game right after that. I felt constant pain in the middle of my chest just below my sternum but it wasn't too bad. Later that night and the next day I was experiencing terrible pain on my right side ribs, which is the side i was laying on when the player landed on me. It hurts almost everytime I breathe and every time I take a deep breath. There is a slight bruise but it isn't very noticable. Do you think this might be a bruised rib?
 aml121 - Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:24 pm

i went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a bruised rib. that was two and a half months ago. my pain went away in about two weeks. i have been having pain in my rib again just recently. is it normal for the pain to come back after your bruised rib is healed?
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:06 pm

User avatar Hello aml1221,

This new pain may or may not be a reinjury of your first incident. Often, areas in the ribs that have been bruised or damaged can be a triggering point for other types of chest pain such as pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs/chest wall) or costochondritis (inflammation of the area where the cartilage and bone meet in the ribs). The area you describe initially would be a classic spot for costochondritis to develop (which also classically follows a traumatic injury). Both these issues are not dangerous but can be quite painful.

If your pain is not improving, I would recommend you see your doctor again for a reevaluation. This will allow for proper recommendations for treatment.

Best wishes.
 francescaelisa - Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:38 pm


I have had bronchitis, and have been coughing violently for just over a week. I have been on antibiotics and getting better. Yesterday my top left rib (under the breast near the diaphragm) began hurting. Today as the the day progressed, the pain got worse and worse. It hurts to breathe, cough, sneeze or even get up from laying down.

I know you can hurt your ribs from coughing, but if it would have cracked wouldn't I have felt it instantly? Does it sound like I have a bruised rib? I would go to the doctors, but I recently lost my health insurance, and cannot afford to go without it.

Thank you so much for your time!

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