Cracked rib: How long does the pain last?

intercostal neuralgia pain

Following an accident, a fall, or a shock, you can end up with quite intense pain in the chest. This pain may indicate a crack in the ribs.

This superficial fracture, often benign, without major consequences. Nevertheless, it can be responsible for unbearable pain whose persistence is a source of significant discomfort.

If you have a cracked rib, how long does the pain last? Find answers in this article.

Cracked rib, what is it?

The ribs are long bones able to withstand a lot of shocks, so well that they constitute with the sternum, the osteo-cartilaginous framework responsible for the protection of various vital thoracic organs such as the heart, the lungs and the aorta.

A cracked rib is characterized by the presence on the Cote an superficial fracture line.

From a medical point of view, a crack is defined by the presence of a crack which does not induce a displacement of the bone, that is to say that thebone is not fragmented.

It usually follows sudden and repetitive blows to the back and chest. Thus, contact sports (football, rugby, skiing, karting, hockey, etc.), a simple fall and the carrying of a heavy load are crack providers.

In subjects with a bone fragility linked to a osteoporosis (decrease in bone mass) a simple fall or a repeated coughing effort are sufficient to cause a superficial fracture of a rib.

A rib crack clinically translates into chest pain. These pains are generally less pronounced if you practice strict rest and refrain from making any sudden movements.

How do I know if a Cote is cracked?

Clinical examination showing spontaneous pain or pain caused by pressing on the Cote affected, as well as the notion of trauma or shock, orients the diagnosis.

chest X-ray (telethorax) front is usually prescribed. It confirms the diagnosis of cracked rib even if not all rib fractures are visible on the X-ray.

It is especially useful for explore the organs behind the ribs and detect possible complications such as pneumothorax (detachment of the pleura) or a abdominal bruise.

Cracked rib: how long does the pain last?

This is certainly the first question that many patients raise when they suffer from a broken rib.

Before discussing this element, it is necessary to remember that any chest pain following a trauma should be the subject of a medical consultation with a health professional as soon as possible.

La duration of pain varies depending on the severity of the crack and therefore can last several weeks. Nevertheless, one must consider on average about six weeks so that a Cote cracked can recover and consolidate completely.  

Thus, the disappearance of the pain and the duration of the treatment will vary according to the healing capacities of our body, which are specific to each human being. As a result, it depends on the time our body takes to restore bone continuity by forming a bone callus at the crack of the Cote.

Also, note that in generalthe throbbing and unbearable pain is present “only” during the first two weeks. After this time, the bone enters a hardening phase and the pain decreases.

Un repos rigorous et abstinence de toute activity physical excessive are recommended during this period de recovery.

How to heal a cracked rib?

In recent years, the treatment of cracked ribs has undergone significant development. In the past, doctors used to tightly wrap the patient's torso with a circular bandage. The objective at the time was then to treat the crack in a rib by reducing the movements of the patient.

Over time, health experts have come to realize that this type of bandage induced a limitation of thoracic expansion and therefore of breathing. This could lead to respiratory problems, even leading to lung infections.

This is why, currently, doctors prefer cracked ribs to heal on their own without any braces or bandages.

Our recommendations

Initially, an analgesic treatment will be systematically prescribed in order to relieve costal pain.

In addition to drug treatment, here are some methods commonly used to treat rib fractures:

  • Intercostal block: it consists of injecting a product into the nerves of the ribs affected in order to induce a anesthesia (lack of pain sensation) transient.
  • Use of ice : this good old grandmother's remedy has always proven itself over the years. Apply a ice pack on the sore area can help reduce your pain and decrease swelling.
  • Repos : this is the simplest solution and above all the most effective. Even if you don't feel like it, you absolutely must stay in bed, if only for the time that your bones consolidate completely.
  • Hospitalisation : if you have breathing problems, you may need to be hospitalized in order to be able to manage any possible complications.
  • Kinesitherapy (physiotherapy) ou osteopathy : To resume activities gradually and safely. These practitioners use a combination of manual techniques and therapeutic exercises.
  • Natural products and home remedies: Although they are not supported by solid scientific evidence, several natural products are successfully used to relieve rib pain.


Advice and prevention

  • In front of all chest pain or rib following a trauma or shock, a consultation with a health professional is recommended as soon as possible.
  • Warm up before starting any sports activity so as not to fracture your ribs during the effort. You can also wear a protective vest on your ribs.
  • Keep in mind that if you don't give your ribs enough time to recover from this discomfort, the fissure may get worse and cause further damage.
  • It is not recommended to carry heavy objects in patients with bone fragility as well as certain simple gestures, but which may nevertheless be responsible for a fracture.


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