What Is a Bruised Rib?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2018
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Any trauma or injury to the chest can lead to a bruised rib. Blood collects around the injured area and is visible on the skin because the ribs are close to the surface. The site can be discolored or the skin can be pushed by the force of bleeding and cause a bump called a hematoma. Tenderness may also be felt in the bruised area, which is also known as a contusion. A bruised rib is a less serious injury and takes a shorter time to heal than if the ribs are broken or separated.

Signs of a bruised rib, in addition to tenderness and visible discoloration, include pain when taking a deep breath, shortness of breath, and pain that occurs with any kind of movement. The ribs can be easily injured from an impact because they get pushed against the surrounding muscle. Such injuries are common in car accidents as well as with football and hockey players.

A typical human rib cage has 24 ribs. The first set of seven ribs connects to both the spine and the breast bone via the costal cartilage. These are called true ribs. Another three pairs of ribs, known as false ribs, connect to the spine and attach to the true ribs in the front. Two sets of ribs known as floating ribs attach to the spine but end in the front with no attachments.


When a bruised rib occurs, the injury might be serious enough that a physician will advise an x-ray. A doctor can then diagnose a cracked rib or any signs of lung trauma. If left untreated, the bone bruise or other internal bruising can affect how the lungs can expand, which can lead to an infection or pneumonia. Simple treatments include administering pain killers or the use of an ice pack to relieve pain. Ice should be applied immediately and used intermittently for up to two days after the injury.

Deep breathing may also be advised to keep the muscles around the bruised rib in tone. If the trauma is serious enough, a protective jacket or vest might be needed. It is never recommended to wrap the ribs in any material because constriction can lead to pneumonia, and sports or other potentially traumatic activities should be avoided. Exercise and weight lifting could also make the injury worse and possibly lead to life-long pain or respiratory issues. A bruised rib can take up to four weeks to fully heal.


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Post 2

I was taking a martial arts class and even though I was using the shield properly, I took a hard kick to my side. It literally moved me about five feet down the mat. It knocked the wind out of me, and the next day, I was so sore I could hardly move. I'm pretty sure I had bruised ribs. I had bruised skin, for sure.

I'm glad I didn't have a broken rib -- the bruised version hurt enough for two breaks. It was very uncomfortable. I couldn't even sleep on my right side for about a week or so. Serious owie.

Post 1

Bruised ribs are painful, is what they are. Long years ago, when I was working fast food, I was walking to the front and slipped on a patch of grease. I fell against the french fry bin, and slammed my side. It hurt like stink.

I ended up going to the ER and they X-rayed me, but said there were no ribs broken, thankfully. I just had a couple of bruised ribs, and got a three-day pass out of work. That was good. But it hurt to take a deep breath for about a week, I can tell you. They healed up pretty quickly, though.

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