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What Is the Connection Between Rib and Back Pain?

The rib cage, with the lower part of the thoracic spine visible at the bottom.
Chest X-rays can be used to detect a broken rib.
A rib that's out of place may be adjusted by a chiropractor, who can provide quick relief.
An out of place or broken rib can cause pain in the back.
Article Details
  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 February 2015
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Rib and back pain often occur simultaneously because of the link between the ribs and the spine: the ribs connect by way of tendons to the spine, so when a rib becomes forced out of place or if that rib is broken, that pain may be felt in the back. A rib that is out of place is sometimes called "subluxated," and an adjustment by a doctor or chiropractor can usually provide fairly quick relief. Several treatments may be necessary, in some cases, before the rib and back are aligned properly and pain is reduced.

When a rib is forced out of place, it may pull on the spine itself or on the tendons that connect the rib to the spine. This can, in turn, pull the spine out of alignment. In other cases, rib and back pain may be caused by poor posture; the back pain may occur first in this instance and cause the rib to be forced out of place. Improving one's posture can help prevent rib and back problems, and it can ease pain if it should occur at any time. Strengthening the muscles of the back can also help prevent problems.

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Subluxated ribs can cause significant pain and discomfort, and they can even restrict a person's normal breathing. It is important for individuals to see a medical professional if the pain persists or affects their ability to take part in daily activities. The rib must be put back into place with a sudden and precise force, and attempting to do this without proper training can be dangerous and can risk further injury to the ribs or back. Painkillers should only be considered temporary fixes for the pain.

Broken ribs can lead to pain as well, and they can be a serious problem, depending on the severity of the break. Rib breaks can take a very long time to heal, and if the bone is badly broken, the person may run the risk of puncturing a lung, further complicating his or her health issues. In other cases in which the broken rib is fairly minor, rest is the best treatment. A medical professional can prescribe treatments that may help reduce the pain associated with a broken rib.

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Animandel
Post 3

@Laotionne - You may have a pulled muscle as your grandmother said, but the rib pain from bruised ribs is often confused with a pulled muscle in that general location. The injuries sometimes happen in the same way, so determining which injury you experienced can be tough sometimes.

With bruised ribs, the cartilage that holds the ribs together is what is actually damaged. With bruised ribs, you can also have back and rib pain when you move, similar to what you have with a pulled muscle. Also, if you have more pain when you breathe then this is a strong sign that you may have bruised a rib. Either injury can be painful, and they sometimes go hand-in-hand, so that is another possibility.

Feryll
Post 2

@Laotionne - Your grandmother might be right on the mark with her diagnosis that you have a pulled rib muscle. When I played baseball, I once pulled a muscle when I was swinging the bat. I had an intense pain when I swung and then the my ribs were just sore after that. I developed back pain because I was putting more pressure on my back as I tried not to put pressure on the ribs. My injury healed quickly with rest and heat and ice. Once the muscle around the rib mended, the back pain went away.

Laotionne
Post 1

I was helping my grandmother clear out some of my grandfather's old boxes and other items from her storage barn the other day, and I hurt myself when I was trying to shove a heavy box onto a high shelf. Now by back and my rib and chest area hurt. My grandmother says I probably have a pulled muscle that is causing the lower back pain and and the pain around my chest. I just know it hurts when I move too quickly or too much.

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