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View Full Version : So I Have a Broken Rib. Is there really nothing to do about it?


Una Persson
01-25-2003, 08:04 AM
Unfortunately, the thread title sums it up for you.

Now, those of you who aren't laughing at my misfortune (and judging from the way things go, this will be laughed at quite heartily over in some LiveJournals :rolleyes: ) - is there really no real treatment for a broken rib? I know you can't put a cast or brace on it effectively, but is there anything I can do to help healing or to make sure that it heals properly?

How long can I expect it to hurt to breathe? I have to do some lectures this next week, and there is no one to replace me. :( Is there an approximate time after which, if the pain doesn't stop, I should go to the doctor again?

Qadgop the Mercotan
01-25-2003, 09:21 AM
Sorry about your misfortune.

There isn't a lot to do about a broken rib, other than treat the pain. In the past, the chest would be taped or bound tightly with elastic wrap to help minimize rib movement and reduce pain, but this causes the person to breath less deeply, cough less effectively, and be at a greater risk for pneumonia. So it's generally not done.

I generally recommend anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen for the pain, if the person can tolerate them ok. It should also be taken on a scheduled basis for a few days to stay ahead of the pain. Use of opiate painkillers is sometimes desirable too, depending on how much it hurts. Occasionally a strong muscle relaxer like valium or flexeril is helpful if there is a lot of spasm in the intercostal (rib) muscles, which really hurts like a bitch if the rib is broken.

I've had patients with broken ribs get sent out from the ER with just a recommendation to take some tylenol for their pain. They should have been told that if the pain doesn't respond adequately to that, they should contact their doctor for more aggressive pain control.

It's gonna hurt for a while. One should expect a lot of trouble from it for at least a week. Expect lingering discomfort for at least 6 weeks. If one gets shortness of breath, a productive cough, fevers or chills, then one needs to hie yourself to your doc ASAP. Coughing up blood would be a reason to seek attention real quick too.

Good luck!

Una Persson
01-25-2003, 09:44 AM
Thank you for the advice, Qadgop. I have some anti-inflammatory medicine, and some Tylenol 3, and some Lortabs somewhere in a great big bottle...and some muscle relaxers too.

Right now, even breathing is painful. I am living in fear of my first sneeze...

AbbySthrnAccent
01-25-2003, 09:52 AM
I'm so sorry you're injured. In addition to sneezes, beware of laughter too. I hope you feel better soon.

Telemark
01-25-2003, 11:13 AM
Having broken and bruised my share of ribs over time, I can report that this is a long lasting and seriously annoying injury. It takes many weeks, like 6, before you stop noticing the injury. In my experience, the initial sharp pain only lasts a week or two, but you get suprised by it when you raise your arms over your head, cough, sneeze, or twist in the wrong way. Turning over in your sleep can be a real adventure.

Sorry for you pain.

UncleBill
01-25-2003, 11:25 AM
That is my worst fear. Always has been. I am very sorry.

light strand
01-25-2003, 12:23 PM
Anth, I found it most helpful to push a hard pillow, like a sofa pillow, against my rib when I wanted to cough hard, or laugh. The ER Doc recommended this, I suppose it was OK. Don't skimp on the pain meds!

I hope you're feeling better soon if there's a suckier bone break than a rib, I don't know what it is. Since there's no splint, you get no sympathy, and I felt like everyone thought I was lying to them.

If you don't mind me asking.... How did it happen? I broke mine skiing.

sailor
01-25-2003, 12:39 PM
Sorry to hear that Anthracite. Look at the bright side though: You don't need treatment! Or would you rather be told you need chemotherapy which will make you feel lousy for months and is terribly expensive? See, there *is* a bright side. I hope it heals well and soon.

ftg
01-25-2003, 12:50 PM
I have torn the cartilage in my rib cage several times. And no doctor has been able to help at all. What I find helps, in addition to the above, is keeping the arm on that side immobile. Keep it in a sling, stuffed in a pocket, whatever.

Una Persson
01-25-2003, 01:31 PM
Originally posted by light strand
Anth, I found it most helpful to push a hard pillow, like a sofa pillow, against my rib when I wanted to cough hard, or laugh. The ER Doc recommended this, I suppose it was OK. Don't skimp on the pain meds!

I hope you're feeling better soon if there's a suckier bone break than a rib, I don't know what it is. Since there's no splint, you get no sympathy, and I felt like everyone thought I was lying to them.

If you don't mind me asking.... How did it happen? I broke mine skiing.
You know what - your pillow idea actually seems to help. Thanks!

How did it break? I was very sick, and I collapsed. My hand was bunched in a fist, and it was underneath my chest when I hit the floor (pretty flat on it), and it broke the rib. Of course, my hand is pretty bad now too, but not broken. :(

light strand
01-25-2003, 01:46 PM
Ouch!

Glad I could help. I hope you're feeling better soon.

CarnalK
01-25-2003, 02:11 PM
Hmm, just a suggestion but you might want to arrange pillows around you when you sleep so that you don't roll around too much.

Rug Burn
01-25-2003, 02:14 PM
Laughter is definitely to be avoided at all cost. I recommend one of these attitude adjusters (http://firebox.com/index.html?dir=firebox&action=product&pid=145&showAllImages=0) to be used liberally on anyone that makes you laugh. Warn 'em once and shoot 'em twice is my motto.

Una Persson
01-25-2003, 02:17 PM
Originally posted by CarnalK
Hmm, just a suggestion but you might want to arrange pillows around you when you sleep so that you don't roll around too much.
Typically, Fierra spoons up close to me, so I cannot go anywhere - or escape the Lesbian Pleasure Palace of Exquisite Perversions. ;) So that shouldn't be a problem, I hope. But thank you for the suggestion!

Una

I guess she could just leave me tied to the bed all the time too...

SparrowHawk
01-25-2003, 02:26 PM
When I broke a rib (some many years ago) I was advised to wear a long-line bra during the healing process. If Dr. Qadgop says they don't tape anymore, he can advise if this is not a good idea, but as far as I know long-line bras don't generally interfere with breathing or dispose one to pneumonia. It might help stabilize you a bit when you can't run around with pillows under your arms all the time. Best wishes for healing well, Anthracite.

(On preview: Hey, watch out for that Lesbian Pleasure Palace thing. It could ouch your broke bits!) :eek:

InternetLegend
01-25-2003, 02:28 PM
Originally posted by Anthracite
Typically, Fierra spoons up close to me, so I cannot go anywhere - or escape the Lesbian Pleasure Palace of Exquisite Perversions. ;)Not a bad restraint system. But you'll want to be careful - many years ago, after Mr. Legend broke two ribs in a car accident, we were sleeping just like that when I had one of those weird almost-dream sensations of falling you get sometimes when you're almost asleep...and I reflexively squeezed him really hard.

I was wide awake after that, what with the screaming and all.

Good luck, and I hope you heal fast!

CarnalK
01-25-2003, 02:46 PM
"Typically, Fierra spoons up close to me, so I cannot go anywhere - or escape the Lesbian Pleasure Palace of Exquisite Perversions."

Yes well I would have recommended that but it's not within most people's means. I'd heed Legend's warning though. :)

cstamets
01-25-2003, 03:01 PM
Originally posted by Rug Burn
Laughter is definitely to be avoided at all cost. I recommend one of these attitude adjusters (http://firebox.com/index.html?dir=firebox&action=product&pid=145&showAllImages=0) to be used liberally on anyone that makes you laugh. Warn 'em once and shoot 'em twice is my motto.

Laughter is definitely bad. Had chest surgery once, they went in between the ribs. Next day, I was in my hospital bed watching TV. Found a Gallagher show. God, that hurt. I was too stupid to change the channel.

Murcielago
01-25-2003, 04:10 PM
When I broke the lowest three ribs on my left side, I was given a prescription for vicodin (mmmmmmm....vicodin) ;) .

To ease some of the breathing difficulty (which lasted about a month for me), I learned to use my stomach muscles to push air out rather than use muscles around the chest to pull air in. Someone else can probably explain this better than I, but the idea is to expell the air by contracting the abs and to allow air back in by relaxing them.

Hang in there, Anthracite, it does get better.

Qadgop the Mercotan
01-25-2003, 04:15 PM
Originally posted by SparrowHawk
If Dr. Qadgop says they don't tape anymore, he can advise if this is not a good idea
I don't recommend binding, but statistically, an otherwise healthy person can probably get away with it for acute pain relief for a few days. They just need to be aware of the risk, and modify their behavior accordingly.

Atrael
01-27-2003, 08:08 AM
Originally posted by Murcielago
To ease some of the breathing difficulty (which lasted about a month for me), I learned to use my stomach muscles to push air out rather than use muscles around the chest to pull air in. Someone else can probably explain this better than I, but the idea is to expell the air by contracting the abs and to allow air back in by relaxing them.

Hang in there, Anthracite, it does get better.


This is a good idea. Try to breath using your diaphram instead of your lungs. It takes a lot of getting used to, but it might help ease the pain. Other than that, unfortunaly I can't give you any other helpful advice. Good luck, and I hope you feel better soon.

Andy
01-27-2003, 09:01 AM
I third the stomach breathing!
It does take a little getting used to, but it can really help, and gives your ribs a bit of a rest, especially as I felt I was giving myself compensatory injuries in the muscles on the other side of my chest.

Eve
01-27-2003, 09:20 AM
Back in October, I broke my elbow and half-a-dozen ribs, so I sympathize (empathize?).

Sneezing is the worst; coughing not so bad. When you know you have to sneeze, hug yourself tightly around the ribs, and that will keep them from spasming too much when you sneeze.

Wrap a big ol' heating pad around yourself when you can, but don't fall asleep with it on!

Now for the bad news—expect to be in pain for at least six weeks, maybe a little longer . . . It will get better!

lieu
01-27-2003, 09:49 AM
Falls With A Fist,

I'm afraid you'll find that simply drawing a breath to sneeze can cause enough pain to actually cancel the sneeze mechanism. So sorry about your accident.



Dances With Tatonkas

Eve
01-27-2003, 10:51 AM
Ha—you should be so lucky! I had a collection of broken ribs, and did a lot of sneezing. "Achoo—ow! Achoo—ow!" Just hug tight till it blows over.

Charlie Tan
01-27-2003, 12:07 PM
In addition to other excellent advise here, I'd like to add that trying to sit up while you sleep, will make it easier on you. You wont turn around so much, and the pain is not so severe. Some people can do this and if you're one of those who easily falls asleep sitting upright, try it.

The six weeks mentioned here is a tad optimistic, IMO. For me, it took ten weeks to get to the point of discomfort-but-not-pain.

Sorry to hear about this. Cracked ribs are not so dangerous, but hurts like hell.

Also, It might be a couple of years before everything is finally in place. I Cracked my ribs in April -00. This summer, when I was on a check-ip, I mentioned in passing to my doc that when I touch the general area where the ribs cracked, I can almost feel a little bumb. She said that when it heals, it can take a long time for all the bones to resume their normal shape and position, but not to worry about it. YMMV

Una Persson
01-27-2003, 01:19 PM
I just want to let you know that I do appreciate all of the suggestions. Many of them have helped to reduce the pain quite a bit. Overall, I need to get well again, and that doesn't look like it's happening, so I hope the rib doesn't end up not healing. I had a broken jaw that took a year to heal, and it didn't set properly. I still wake up with pain from it nearly every day, more than...20 years later? Wow. :eek:

Tapioca Dextrin
01-27-2003, 01:22 PM
And for giving lectures - get someone to bring in a lazyboy and give forth your instuction while in a semi-prone position.

Cervaise
01-27-2003, 03:24 PM
Just to add a data point: I had a broken rib a while back. It was done on purpose during surgery to give the doctors access to my lung. (Chronic recurrent pneumothorax. Long story.) It hurt pretty bad for a little over a month, but then after that the only time I noticed it was when it "clicked" on an inhalation. Apparently, because of where it was or how they cut it or something (not clear on the details), it took a very long time to heal, and if I twisted my torso just right and took a deep breath, I could feel it click inside me. Very weird.

dwyr
01-27-2003, 06:38 PM
If you feel a sneeze coming on take your index finger, in a horizontal position, and press it on that part of your face between the nose and mouth (don't know the name for it). Pressure on the nerve there scotches the sneeze impulse very effectively.

handsomeharry
01-27-2003, 06:59 PM
my uncle got a rib broken in three places-the doctor told him to keep out of those places.


(right, right! all the problems in the world are caused by me!!)

Uncommon Sense
01-27-2003, 09:21 PM
In order for us to be able to laugh at your misfortune, you must at least tell us how the break happened. Cripes!!

I had a broken rib also. You will find that once something hits the floor it tends to stay there for some time.
I got good at picking stuff up with my feet.

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