How to sleep with a broken rib? (Tips)

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Sleep sitting up, lying on your back, in a recliner or on your side, you can choose between different positions possible for sleep with a broken rib. But the question is how to go about it? What are the precautions? Which pillow for a broken rib?

A broken rib is one of the benign chest bruises. But even being benign, the pain remains very present. Especially at night ! Hence the usefulness of knowing the good positions to sleep with a broken rib.

Adopting the correct postures helps to minimize the pain caused and the pressure exerted on the fracture site During the night.

Discover in this article a more detailed explanation on the subject.

Broken rib, the essential reminders to revise

A broken rib is a benign blunt chest injury. In other words, it is one of the lesions of the thorax which is not life-threatening, in the absence of complications and polytrauma.

We are talking about a fracture unifocal if there is only one fracture site on one rib. But there are also cases where a fracture can be observed bifocal or even multifocal.

The main causes of a broken rib 

Most often, a broken rib is due to:

  • Chest trauma (shocks, falls, blows, accidents, violent contact or violent sports)
  • Weakening of the bones due to diseases affecting the structures of the bones (osteoporosis, bone metastasis)

Associated signs and evolution

A broken rib causes pain in the chest, which is lives at the level of the fracture site, especially on inspiration. In general, the pain is exaggerated when the person coughs or moves.

The fracture also leads to a decrease in respiratory amplitude. The person cannot breathe heavily and the respiratory rate increases (polypnea) to maintain good oxygenation of the body.

In general, the evolution of a broken rib is favorable, that is to say that it rarely engages the vital prognosis. The complications are however possible, but rare (Pneumothorax, hemothorax, pulmonary congestion, atelectasis and pulmonary infection)

Sleep positions with a broken rib

After having seen these few notions of important generalities, we now enter the body of the article. The answers to the question: how to sleep with a broken side ?

Sleep sitting up

Although it may seem a little confusing, sitting is one of the best ways to sleep with a broken rib. And this for many reasons :

  • You are less likely to toss and turn in your sleep.
  • Takes the pressure off your spine which could affect your broken ribs.
  • Breathing easier than lying on your back.
  • Staying straight can help speed up the rate of healing.

Use classic pillows (soft and soft) to support your trunk and keep it straight. For example, you can put some behind you, idea of ​​raising your chest in a straight position. You can also put some under both arms for better stabilization.

We recommend the seated position during the first days to sleep with a broken rib. Or if you present rib fractures on both sides of the chest.

Lying methodically on your back

Of course, the lying position is possible for sleep with a broken rib. If sleeping seated is uncomfortable for you, there is still the classic position: lying on your back!

But be careful, it must be done methodically:

  • First, you need to carefully lie on your back.
  • Put pillows under each arm to limit your movement during the night. This will prevent you from suddenly changing positions in your sleep.
  • A pillow placed under the knees relieves pressure on your spine.

For more comfort, you can even add a wedge pillow, detailed below.

Sleep in a recliner

Le reclining chair is an equally effective way to sleep with a broken rib. Not only is it practical, but it also gives greater comfort than just a bed and pillows.

This chair allows you to lift your chest, you will avoid lying down too much without being completely seated. This is the best compromise for the two previous methods.

Opt if possible for models with several levels of positions, that is to say that can be adjusted on several levels.

Sleep on the side 

A lateral position for sleep with a broken rib, why not ? Some doctors suggest sleep on fractured side and let the healthy side provide good breathing.

You can use a body pillow (detailed below) for convenience.

Not on your stomach

Even if it seems obvious (because it hurts a lot), it is our duty to inform you that lying on your stomach is formally contraindicated for sleep with a broken rib.

This increases the risk of progression to serious complications, because the fracture sites risk damaging the pulmonary leaflet, or worse, piercing the pulmonary parenchyma.

Which pillow for a broken rib?

The choice of a good pillow is one of the major points for sleep with a broken rib with ease.

The orthopedic neck pillow

This kind of pillow is very useful especially if you have chosen to sleep lying down. It is also suitable for people who are not used to lying on their backs.

The neck pillow is designed primarily for improve the quality of sleep, and thus speed up recovery. In addition, the cervical pillow allows you to correctly align your sleeping position during the night.

For a detailed review of orthopedic pillows (as well as some recommendations from the physiotherapist), see the following article.

The body pillow

The body pillow is an option for sleeping with a broken rib with peace of mind, especially if you move a lot during your sleep.

This pillow will limit your mobility and will prevent you from moving from one side to another. It was specified that mobility accentuates the pain, at the risk of waking up at night with a sharp pain, opt for this type of pillow.

This type of pillow is more suitable for the side lying position, moreover, it allows to minimize the low back pain.

The compensated pillow

The wedge pillow is obviously among the list of pillows for sleep with a broken rib. It has the ability to support the spine and allows you to slightly elevate your chest for good blood circulation.

You can use this pillow when you lie on your back for example.

In conclusion,

There are many positions for sleeping with a broken rib, just choose the one that causes the least amount of pain.

Specialty pillows can be a great help and will guarantee you a more restful sleep.


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