Bruised ribs

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Bruised ribs are likely to occur after a direct strike or impact to the chest. In most instances, the injury is due to a fall or direct blow from any hard object but the most common cause are vehicular accidents.

There are 24 ribs in the rib cage that are attached to an elongated, flattened bone in the middle of the chest called sternum. It is important to note that the ribs are linked to the sternum by cartilage which are strong and highly flexible. The rib cage is responsible for protecting the organs in the chest cavity. Remember that any of these ribs can end up damaged.

Bruised ribs
Pain is produced while breathing or feel winded is one of the indications of having a bruised rib.

Indications of bruised ribs

If an individual is suspected with bruised ribs, the following symptoms are likely:

  • Abrupt chest pain upon impact
  • Pain is produced while breathing or feel winded
  • Bruising can develop after a few hours
  • The affected area is usually tender to the touch
  • Pain is triggered when coughing or sneezing


It is vital to seek medical care as soon as possible to rule out rib fractures and other complications such as a collapsed lung or pneumothorax.

As part of treatment, getting enough rest is vital to allow the tissues to recuperate. The application of an ice pack can help in alleviating the pain and swelling. Bruised ribs usually heal on their own within 1-2 weeks.

Padding of the injury with tape can also provide added protection. Anti-inflammatory medications are also prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation to allow normal breathing.

In case the injury is painful, it is not recommended to continue to play or engage in any activity. Proper padding might be used when playing contact sports if the pain allows.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on bruised ribs is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage internal injuries by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.

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