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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.
An out of place or broken rib can cause pain in the back.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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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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