A rib injury is a bruise, strain, break, separation, or irritation of one or more of the ribs in your chest. It can also be an injury to the tissue called cartilage that attaches the top 10 ribs to the breastbone.
A fall or direct blow to the chest may bruise, strain, or break the ribs or injure the rib cartilage. Breaks usually happen in the outer curved part of the rib cage.
When a rib tears away from the cartilage, the injury is called a costochondral separation. It may result from a blow to the ribs, a fall, or when your child lands hard on their feet. It might even be caused by forceful coughing or sneezing.
Irritation of a rib is called costochondritis. It may be caused by an infection or repeated coughing, or by overuse, like from rowing or heavy lifting. Sometimes the cause is not known.
A rib injury causes pain and tenderness in the ribs. Your child may have pain when he or she breathes, moves, laughs, or coughs.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. Your provider will examine your child’s chest and listen to the lungs. Tests may include X-rays or other scans.
Rib injuries can be painful and make it hard to cough or take a deep breath. Your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medicine or injections to block pain.
Your child may need to do breathing exercises while healing to prevent lung problems.
Rib injuries usually heal without surgery. Bruised ribs or a costochondral separation usually take 3 to 4 weeks to heal. Broken ribs take 6 to 8 weeks to heal.
To relieve pain and help the injury heal:
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.
Ribs are often injured in accidents that are not easy to prevent.
In contact sports like football it’s important to wear the proper protective equipment.