Chest pain can be excruciating, especially when taking deep breaths or coughing. One possible cause of this pain is a popped rib, which occurs when a rib becomes misaligned. When this happens, you may experience sharp stabbing-like pains in your chest or between your shoulder blades. The pain may worsen when you move your upper body or in the morning when you wake up.
The rib cage serves to protect vital organs in your upper abdomen and also plays a crucial role in breathing. Each breath you take involves the movement of your ribs. Therefore, when a rib pops out of place, the pain can be unbearable. In addition to chest pain, you may also experience persistent upper abdominal pain under your ribs. However, it’s important to note that intense chest pains can also be a symptom of other serious conditions related to your heart.
There are various reasons why a rib can come out of alignment, including rib injuries, excessive sneezing, forceful throwing, or heavy lifting. If you’re experiencing intense chest pain, it’s always recommended to consult a doctor first. However, if a popped rib is the cause of your discomfort, physical therapy can often help relieve the pain and realign the rib.
Your rib cage consists of two pairs of 12 ribs. Ten of these ribs on each side of your chest are attached to the front of your breastbone, while the remaining two ribs on each side are known as floating ribs because they don’t attach to the breastbone. In total, you have 24 ribs in your rib cage.
According to doctors from PubMed Health, your rib cage also includes intercostal muscles, nerves, and ligaments. These components provide support to your torso and expand and contract as you breathe.
When one or more ribs become partially separated from their normal position, it’s referred to as a rib out of place. This misalignment can occur either at the back where the rib joins the thoracic spine or at the front where it joins the sternum. This condition can cause pain that affects your ribs or middle back.
Sometimes, a rib out of place is also called rib misalignment, rib jamming, rib popping, or subluxated rib. You may also encounter terms like slipped rib or dislocated rib when discussing agonizing rib pain. So, what’s the difference between a rib out of place and a dislocated rib?
According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, a dislocation occurs when the bone is completely forced apart from the joint. This results in intense pain and can radiate to other areas of the body. On the other hand, a rib out of place, or subluxation, is only a partial dislocation and is not as severe as a complete rib dislocation.
The main symptom of a rib out of alignment or partial dislocation is pain, which may take a few weeks to heal. However, depending on the severity of the subluxation, you may experience other symptoms as well.
According to the journal Gut, the three main symptoms of a rib out of place are varying degrees of pain in the upper abdomen or lower chest, tenderness on the lower part of the rib cage, and pain when pressing on the affected area. Additional symptoms may include a clicking noise when moving your upper body, inflammation and possible swelling in the affected joint, muscle spasms in the rib cage, difficulty breathing, and increased chest pains when breathing deeply or sneezing.
It’s worth noting that chest pain caused by a displaced rib can sometimes be mistaken for digestive problems or cardiac-related issues. Therefore, it’s crucial not to ignore any type of chest pain and seek medical attention even if you suspect a popped rib.
Rib subluxations or ribs out of place are common among athletes and sportspeople. Sports that involve racquets or bats, swimming, or throwing objects can put significant strain on the ribs, potentially causing them to become displaced or partially dislocated.
A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that rib subluxations are a common sports injury. For example, one swimmer experienced persistent pain in the left lower rib cage, and doctors discovered a subluxation in the rib cage after a long period of undiagnosed pain. Moreover, the International Journal of Surgery Case Reports states that trauma to the rib attachments in the rib cage can lead to a rib head popping out of place, causing chest pain that radiates to the back.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a rib out of place, there are some ways to help reduce the agonizing discomfort in your chest or middle back. However, it’s important to note that attempting to put a rib back into place yourself can risk further injury, so it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.
Here are some tips to help alleviate the pain and promote healing:
- Get plenty of rest to prevent further injuries to the ligaments, muscles, or nerves in your rib cage.
- Breathe normally to avoid mucus buildup in your chest and chest infections.
- Hold a pillow against your chest to reduce pain when sneezing or coughing.
- Clear your lungs by taking 10 slow, deep breaths every hour.
- Apply ice to the affected area.
- Some gentle yoga poses may help self-adjust a rib out of place if the misalignment is minimal.
To receive proper treatment, schedule an appointment with us, and our experienced professionals will perform various manipulation techniques to help loosen the muscles and ligaments around the displaced rib. This will enable us to gently realign the rib back into its proper place. Most patients report minimal discomfort during this procedure.
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.