What Can Cause A Cracked Rib? Symptoms, Complication And Treatment

Rib fracture occurs when there is crack in any one of the bones of rib cage. It is a painful condition that may occur due to impact on rib cage as a result of trauma or accident or sport injury. Cracked rib usually heals on its own within six weeks. Cracked rib is not as dangerous as broken rib.

Usually seventh to tenth ribs are more prone to injury. First rib is rarely fractured as it is protected by clavicle. First and second rib fractures are usually associated with head and face injuries.

What Causes A Cracked Rib?

  • Fracture can occur due to direct trauma or indirect trauma caused due to crushing injuries.
  • Fall, motor vehicle accidents or strong impact while playing may cause cracked rib.
  • Diseases like cancer or infection of bones may lead to pathological rib fracture.
  • Bones may become fragile due to osteoporosis or metastatic deposits leading to fragility fracture of ribs.
  • Sustained coughing can result in cracked rib.
  • Repetitive trauma can lead to cracked rib. Especially players who play golf or rowing are more likely to develop cracked rib.
  • You are at increased risk of developing rib fracture if you play high impact games like hockey and football.

Symptoms And Complications Of Cracked Ribs

  • As rib cage moves during breathing, cracked rib causes pain during breathing.
  • Sometimes grating sound is produced while breathing.
  • Affected area is tender to touch.
  • Pain can be experienced on bending or when you twist your body.

If the cracked rib is injured again due to fall or excessive pressure it may break. Broken rib may injure internal organs such as lungs, kidney or liver depending on location of broken rib.

Broken rib causes puncture wound in the organ and can lead to emergency situation which needs immediate medical attention.
The sharp end of broken middle rib can puncture lung and lung may collapse.

Broken lower rib may lacerate spleen, liver or kidney and damage the organ.

Diagnosis Of Cracked Rib

Doctor will examine the patient and look for any history of trauma. Sometimes cracked rib is not be revealed on x-ray.
CT scan helps to see soft tissue injuries as well as fractured rib.
MRI also helps to detect subtle cracks in ribs along with soft tissue injury. It will also help to find out if any organ is damaged or not.
Bone scan is useful to detect stress fracture. During bone scan small amount of radioactive material is injected in the blood stream which gets collected at places where fractured bone is healing.

How To Treat A Cracked Rib?

Cracked ribs do not require any treatment as they heal on their own in six weeks. Medication is given by the doctor to relieve pain.

In the past compression wraps were used to limit the mobility of rib cage but now they are not used as it affects the breathing of the person and may lead to pneumonia.

  • Take rest, if necessary.
  • Engage in light activities.
  • Avoid getting injured during sport activity. Wear protective guards to prevent injury while playing.
  • Keep your house floor clean and dry to avoid falls. Keep your house well lit. Clear the clutter as early as possible.
  • Take calcium rich diet to prevent osteoporosis. Take calcium supplements and vitamin D supplements if necessary. Consult your doctor for right dosage of the same.

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