How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

Having a broken rib is very painful. Coughing, breathing, turning or twisting to reach something are all made with an effort.

The most agonising is when trying to sleep. Every movement, either turning to the left or right brings out the most excruciating pain. So this week has been a tough sleep week for me. The good thing to come out of my experience this week is – I now know how to sleep with less pain! And want to give you some tips to reduce your pain level when you have a broken rib (which I hope you don’t) and want to have peaceful sleep with less pain.

CAUTION!! This information is un-researched data and has been tested on one case study only – me. Seek your doctors advice before following any of my tips.

Get a rib strap from your doctor first. It has a synergistic effect. Here is how you can sleep with less pain when you have a broken rib:

  1. Make sure your one year old child sleeps first. I tried to sleep first and got kicked at the injured site. He thought it was play time because it was what we do before I put him to sleep.
  2. The most comfortable position is to lie on the back. Actually the best would be to not to sleep at all – standing – but beware. Lack of sleep for over 48 hours results in psychiatric symptoms, notably hallucinations.
  3. Next best position is to sleep on the unaffected side.
  4. The third best position to sleep when you have a broken rib is to lie on your stomach.

How to reduce pain while turning during sleep.

  • From back position to side position: slowly swing your arm on the affected side to the side you wish to move to and rest your forearm in parallel with your body and with your arm supporting your body at an angle. This movement will enable you to face the side you are turning to.
  • Next, turn your whole body slowly to the direction you are facing by turning your shoulders. Do not turn from the waist. This will result in a painful twist!
  • Finally, move the leg that you are not sleeping on up into your chest slightly.
  • The final position position is somewhat like the coma position. With you sleeping on the unaffected side.
  • From this position you can easily move to sleep on your belly with much less pain.

The next sequence of movements is when trying to stand up from sleeping. The best approach is to do it from a belly sleeping position.

  • From sleeping on your belly and trying to stand up: Move your hands closer to your body as if trying to do a push up. Lift your body by extending your elbows. Your forearms should be supporting your body in the position as if trying to do a push up.
  • Next, draw your legs under you body and sit up on your feet. Much like how the Japanese sit in their traditional homes with feet folded under their feet.

By the way do not use a pillow. If you do, use a soft one, but you might end with a painfull neck in the morning. The angle created by your head lying on a pillow pulls on the chest muscles and causes pain on the affected side.

So there it is. My tips on how to sleep with less pain if you happen to have the unfortunate experience of having one of your ribs fractured.

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About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
This entry was posted in Family, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

190 Responses to How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

  1. Beth says:

    I too have some broken ribs (biking accident) and have found that lying down is excruciating except when lying on the affected side. The best thing for me is to not lie down at all and sleep semi-upright in a recliner with a neck pillow for support. The less pressure put on the the ribs the less pain there is.

    As for the rib belt, it is only effective in approximately 50% of patients who use it and it must be removed every 3 hours for 1 hour of deep breathing to prevent pleural effusion and pneumonia. I think the belt’s effectiveness depends on what ribs are fractured and where the fracture occurs.

    • brian says:

      i agree with Beth. I just fractured 3 (7,8,9) yesterday and had my best nap in a recliner. Breathing is such an issue, the device they gave me seems to help. The bed isnt even an option any more.

      • Jim Bryden says:

        Hello fella rib breakers…enjoying your comments. After two nights of lousy sleep, I went to a chair midway throught the second night and slept quite well. This included using a foot rest and soft pillow at the head. Fell off my bike two days ago and fractured 5 ribs. Hate taking medicine, but deferred to my wife to take pain killer once a day. Deep breathing is important and I can do that without much trouble. Good luck to you all.

    • steven says:

      whats crazy is i actually broke my 11th rib from coughing too hard.. I am not out of shape so blows my mind how that can happen..

  2. rodney itaki says:

    Hey Beth. Thanks.

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review | Pacific Family Health Journal

  4. Darel says:

    This is dangerous information. Please follow up-to-date procedures, which recommend against using any binding and notes that sleeping on the injured side is the best. These methods are encouraged to prevent pneumonia and collapsed lungs.

    • rodney itaki says:

      Thank you Darel, but this is my own experience and I am more than glad to share it. Like I have stated in my Disclaimer, please consult your doctor for proper treatment.

  5. kent gray says:

    I found your information to be very accurate. I am 1 week into 2 broken ribs. Everything you say is spot on. I’m looking forward to some newly prescribed pain killers / muscle relaxants for tonight and might try sleeping in a comfy recliner as my best sleeps have been cat naps in chairs. Thanks for your insight. Kent.

  6. rodney itaki says:

    Thanks Kent. Glad you found the information helpful.

  7. Garth says:

    I broke some ribs playing rugby and found that using a couple of body pillows helped. I took my wife’s pregnancy pillows and made circle then laid my affect side in the middle with the bottom of the pillow between my legs. Now this helped me but you should consult a doctor first.

  8. Jim says:

    On May 13 a slip in the bathtub left me with 2 fractured ribs.. and as of today I am still sleeping in a recliner with cushions on both sides of my butt ( which keeps you from moving in your sleep) and I still wake up 2 to 3 times a night.. Time is the only healer for pain relief and hopefully in the next week or two I can return to my bed.
    I don’t wish this on my worst enemy

  9. Lucy says:

    I lost my footing on a walk and my rib hit a rock resulting in a cracked or broken rib. After two nights of wincing pain every time I tried to turn over or get up I had a reasonable night last night and am hopeful the bone is now knitting together again. I sleep on the affected side (I think this might be good traction), I sit on the bed as far back as I can, lay my hot wheat pouch or hot waterbottle then slide my right arm on its elbow then forearm, aiming for the warmth of the hot pouch, balancing lightly with my left arm (which if I use too much pulls the muscles into spasm) and bring my legs onto the bed. I sleep like that, absolutely still, legs curled, thighs at about 90% to spine until the hip can’t bear it any more and/or the painkillers wear off. I can now roll, very gingerly and not yelp with pain. I know it’s going to take a while but the pain of those first three days was worse than childbirth, the rib felt it was playing a jousting game with itself and no position, heat, tiger balm or painkillers helped at all.
    Good luck to anyone suffering this.

    • Lorrie says:

      Oh… I so much understand you… I am dying… My pain is so intense, I have been to the emergency room twice and my own doctor once…. No One can help me…. you are right there when you say no position, heat, (ice packs) painkillers…. Nothing,, it is worse than giving childbirth…. I would not want my worse enemy to go through this…. I AM HELPLESS IN PAIN….

      • Melanie says:

        Lorrie – so sorry. It’s been about six weeks that you posted? Something like that? How are you feeling now (mid May)? Better, I hope for you as much as for me. Anyone else….. how long before it gets easier to breathe or get up from a chair? How come I never knew how much broken ribs could hurt? I hope everyone heals fast!!!

  10. teesawang says:

    I have my 8 and 9 rib broken and I found that sleeping semi-upright in a recliner on a couch with a neck pillow for support and without turn over in the night. The couch helps getting up 3 – 4 times in the night without any pain .

  11. Jason says:

    I’m on day 4 of two ribs broken in my right upper chest. I’ve taken to sleeping outside in a hammock chair, arms at my sides, very slightly forward. I have to say it’s the most restful sleep I’ve had in weeks. Before getting in the chair to sleep I also try to make sure I’m floating on a comfortable cloud of Advil. Good luck to all the poor souls who felt the need to Google ‘how to sleep with broken ribs.’

  12. lisa van aken says:

    I have also been sleeping on the unaffected side. sleeping on the affected side hurts, but i’m also finding my side to feel stretched is that ok?

  13. Ralph says:

    I cracked two “floating” ribs two days ago. I visited the doctor and got the pain medications, etc…, however, it was screamingly painful getting into and out of bed in addition to changing sleeping positions. On the third night I decided to sleep in a comfortable computer chair. It worked resulting in a lot less pain and easy to get into and out of. But I would probably use a recliner if I had one.

    I use a normal sitting position and a resting my head on the desk with a pillow to sleep. No more screaming getting into or out of bed or turning in bed now. Although I’m only on day five of healing, I feel the chair sleeping has helped me heal faster as I can make more movements without pain now. Unfortunately the doctor said it would take up to six month to completely heal.

    • Nathalie says:

      thank you all for the advise on how to sleep,I fell on the stairs last night and broke 2 ribs,icould not get off the bed this morning,so much pain,I will try somthing different tonite,wow,not looking forward to bedtime.

  14. Leann says:

    Thanks! I also have a sprained and hand. I am using this technique to survive.! I would write more; but this is all i can manage with my thumb! Bless you!

  15. Denise Elliott says:

    It is now 15 days since I broke two ribs by falling in the bath. I still can’t sleep but getting in and out of bed is now much less painful. I can only rest by sleeping sitting propped up with four pillows. I can’t sleep either on my stomach or on either side and still can’t lie flat. Painkillers have helped but I am really worried about the number I have taken over the last two weeks. And I agree the first couple of days were worse than childbirth pains. Many thanks for the sleeping tips already posted and good luck to all logging on for help.

    • I agree Denise tottaly with u im on day 11, its like I feel like its never gomma get bettter.I clean houses for a living, I thought I could go back to work this week. But I trief to sleep in brd last night woke up after 2 hrs took 1 hr to get out of bed, back in recliner.And I had 2 kids natural child birth no epideral son was 8lbs9oz this is worse.

  16. Rodney Itaki says:

    Glad you found some help here. Post your experience and share with others.

  17. Sara says:

    suffering from 2 fractured ribs, I suffer from brain tumor and porphyria, pancreatites and a number of other conditions (and only 23 years of age)…. Had a black out sunday night and must of planted face on in to the kitchen tiles… Had a fair bit of brusing bilateraly on legs/thigs and my two fractured ribs (one each side/lower). Finding it incredibly hard to get comfortable. The first two nights I lay on my back flat and didnt move, as you all know breathing is just so painful. Now 5 nights of hardly any sleep I am trying different positions and found this site.. does anyone have any tips for sleeping when you have broken ribs both sides… thanks


  18. My parrot took flight over five sets of fences, I jumped them all to catch her and at the last fence my arms gave way and I literally jumped onto the fence horizontally… broke 2 pairs of ribs left and right 😦 The cracking noise was a dead give away. I cannot sleep in a bed. It hurts too much but I find being on my lounge being as vertical as possible puts the least amount of pressure on my lungs and ribs. I have been feeling nauseous all day and lying down makes it impossible to sleep. It feels like my ribs are causing my stomach grief but not much I can do..

  19. Ram says:

    I had a wierd experience. My unprofessional Masseur pressed with both hands on my chest and I heard a crackling sound with mild pain. He continued massage mentioning that it must be some muscle or gas :-(.. I continued my travel / work for next 5 days before consulting a doctor as nagging pain was not going away. guess what.. it was a rib fracture 1st or 2nd rib on the left.. Thank god that it was not very painful or it didnt affect any organs which were around it.. Tried stretch tape for 8 inches on the left side of the chest but i had to take it off as it got much more painful than not having it.. Doctor advised me to lie on my back.. I also lie on the other side as I dont want to stretch/hurt the healing process of broken bone by sleeping on it. I stopped painkillers on 5th day. It has been 16 days and I hope the bone must have built bridges between two ends. Doctor mentioned 6-8 weeks to show the result on x-ray.. I was very upset and hurt on why it happened to me while i was trying to relax. To clarify the frustration, i had a disc prolapse in my lower back during an outing (I was carrying my 2.5 year old child while trekking a difficult terrain) and followed by neck problems.. Hopefully, this is the last problem with bone structures πŸ™‚ Thank god that my pain is nothing compared to the people who have written in this forum but it was more cerebral pain thinking about negative implications.. God bless…

  20. Jenn says:

    I crashed riding my quad at 50 miles per hour. I walked away with a concussion, bruised shoulder bone, bruised tailbone, and fractured/broken ribs. On top of that, I believe that I got the flu at the hospital. I have found that sleeping propped up with a pillow or blanket under my arm on the affected side helps. It is recommended that you sleep on the affected side and have found it comfortable once you get the right position. Definitely, sleeping in the recliner is comfortable, but again, with a pillow or blanket underneath the affected side’s arm.

  21. Back in 2006, I got crushed between 2 vehicles. I broke 5 ribs on my right side (front and back). In addition, I had a small pneumothorax (healed on it’s own). Anyway…I ended up sleeping in a recliner for about 6 weeks. The pain was excrutiating. I would try to sleep on the couch or in bed, but it so uncomfortable, I would always to back to the recliner. To this day, I still have some minor pain in that area. I find that it hurts more if I sleep on the “unaffected” side.

    As a single parent of small children (back in 2006), I had to send the kids to live with their father for about 2 weeks as I couldn’t properly care for them, much less myself.

    What I found that was odd was that every single time I went to a follow-up doctor visit (either a lung specialist or my GP), I was handed prescription after prescription of Pain Meds/Muscle Relaxers – I’m talking heavy duty pain killers. In particular, I found the Morphine to be horrible (severe nightmares) and wouldn’t take it after that first night.

    For any of you who are currently experiencing broken ribs, you have my sympathy…truly, the best way (imho) is to sleep sitting up.

  22. pretty61 says:

    Im lucky to have a sectional with a lounge. On the advice of my chiropractor, I sleep with the back couch pillow slanted so my head is raised to where its comfortable, put a pillow ( i use 1 flat 20″ pillowand 1 microfiber 12″ couch pillow.) or rolled up blanket under knees. small pillow under small of back. He said to avoid sitting, either stand or lie down with pillows ( like in the chiros office) as for sleeping, but aliitle taller in the seat. If you dont have a reliner or lounge trya couch with ottoman, table with pillows, etc.
    It was helpful to read about how to get up from sitting, etc. thats been my most difficult part of the whole rib issue.

    Due to earlier posts I will add rolled blanket to the right of me, Just going to stay out of the bed as long as it takes. Luckily my lounge is big enough for 2 to snuggle! πŸ™‚ yes im on the mend. good luck to all of you with pain. its the worst I have ever felt and people dont get it.

    Tip: small children or compulsive huggers around? Put a colorful sling on your arm on the injured side. in public, people will ask about your injury, and avoid physical contact. No more invisible injury!

  23. Nancy Bryers says:

    I have 4 broken ribs which happened 5 weeks ago. I am still sleeping in a chair at night and just about off all medication. Tried to sleep in med last night on my back and that lasted about 1 hour – back to the chair. Will try the suggestion of sleeping on my stomach

  24. skyleigh says:

    I think i broke my rib because my cousin elbowed my in my ribs i need help

  25. Bob says:

    I’ve had a nasty fall down a flight of stairs a week ago. The first night I could still sleep in my bed, but the pain increased severely in the following days. I’m not able to get my body positioned horizontal in bed without lots of breathtaking pain. So I’ve spend the last few nights sitting in a comfy chair, supported bij pillows, watching TV in the background. This way I can get a few hours of sleep.
    I’ve only called my doctor (didn’t see her), and by the symptoms I described she concluded I must have bruised or broken ribs and advised me to take Paracetamol with codeΓ―ne. There was nothing else that could be done except taking these pills and take a lot of rest.
    After this week I can carefully inhale deeply and coughing is less painfull, but my entrails still hurt when I walk, sit down or get up. Is that normal and still connected to the situation with my ribs, or is there a chance my entrails have been affected by me slamming on the floor after missing 12 steps?

  26. Brian says:

    I broke three ribs on my right side. It’s been alittle over a week now and I am on the mend. Laying down in bed is out of the question. The pain is unbearable. The most comfortable way to sleep for me is in the recliner with a neck pillow and round pillow on my right side. I fear coughing or god forbid, a sneeze. I’ve broken many things over the years and this by far is the worst. I am looking forward to sleeping in bed again with my wife. Thank you for posting your techniques, I will give them a try once I can lay down in the bed without yelling from pain.

  27. donna says:

    3 weeks in with a broken rib ( on xmas eve …..merry xmas to me lol). Still cant sleep in bed,the only way i can get a few hours of sleep is on my couch half upright with lots of large cushions behind me and two rolled up blankets either side to rest my arms on. Off the heavy meds now and the killet muscle spasms have eased off. My heart goes out to any one who sneezes in the first 2 weeks!, and if you get the hiccups…………..!!!!! Wishing all my fellow rib break-ees a healthy new year! Roll on March lol.

    • Nigel says:

      I took a bad bounce off a trampoline and landed on my chest in a rock garden. The first thing I did was check all my ribs for any breaks, none, but I must have fractured them. Slept on my back on the sofa the first night. The second day the pain started, super intense, makes me involentarly scream (a manly scream) and all my muscles in the chest area tighten up in an uncontrollable cramp. The second night, I couldn’t even get close to lying down, any movement from vertical made me scream in pain. I’m on day eight now, the intense cramps went away on night four. I dread going to sleep, I have to sleep sitting perfectly vertical, with a stack of pillows beside me to rest my head on. I can only sleep for 1 hour before I wake up with something sore, usualy my butt or my neck. So I have to get up and walk around for a while then repeat the process. I’m barely surviving on 4 hrs sleep a night and if I close my eyes I think I could sleep standing up. It’s 3:07 in the morning and I and I hate having to sleep. It makes me wonder how soldiers who get shot get through the healing process? Me, I just dream of sleeping in a bed for 8 hours!

  28. I fractured 2 ribs on my left side last Wednesday. My MD sent me for a CT Scan to r/o a ruptured spleen; the rib fractures were not picked up. I hurt so bad that I went to the emergency room the next day. I was then told I have 2 rib fractures and given enough meds to kill a horse. I am glad to know about sleeping in a recliner; I scream out in pain trying to get up from the bed. I am a runner and that has curtailed that, for at least 6 weeks. I am telling you, I have NEVER hurt like this before.

  29. Tim Hannah says:

    So,2 days ago was my first day of a 3 week snowboard holiday and my board decided to go one side of a large pine tree and my body the other side. (Imagine a car that has slid sideways into a power pole) Bedsides the fact that I was severely winded and could not breathe, I knew that I had done some damage. After getting a lift from Ski Patrol to the on mountain doctors, got some x-rays and shows that I snapped my 10th rib and severally bruised most of my other ribs on my left side.

    Sleeping has been nearly impossible even with taking pain killers, taking nearly 30 mins to be able to roll over in the middle of the night. Unfortunately I am staying in a hotel so no recliner and I have had to move to the sofa bed as we only have a real bed in the loft up steep stairs. I find if I sit up straight at the dinner table of up straight on the sofa bed I am ok, only hurting when I take a deep breath etc. I might try and sleep in the armchair with my feet up on the coffee table tonight and see if that is any better. It is so hard to get out of the sofa bed from lying on your belly. What seriously hurts though is the spasms that just randomly happen when I might move my hand to pick up the remote or try and straighten my self up. This is the most intense pain I have ever felt. The other weird thing is I feel like I can feel the bone physically move. It is like a little pop I feel in my lower chest. Has anyone else felt this before?

    I do not wish this pain on my worst enemies…

    • Bob says:

      Hi Tim,

      I’m in my third week now after a nasty fall from our stairs (in the older houses in Amsterdam they can be pretty steep, and I pretty much did the 24 steps in one go), and the pain is reducing to a more manageable level. I cracked a few ribs on the right side of my chest.

      I spend most of the first week trying to sleep at night in a comfy chair, sitting straight. To prevent my head from lolling around I supported it with a rolled up towel. I would have prefered one of those pillows you can use on a plane, but I sadly couldn’t find it.
      From the second week on I managed to sleep in bed, though getting in or out of bed is quite a painfull wrestle. (I tied a belt to the side of the bed so I can pulI myself up with my left arm while trying to get up, it helps!) I can only sleep on my back, so I usually wake up after two or three hours feeling stiff and sore.

      The upside of sleep deprivation is that days just seem to melt in a blur. Living in Amsterdam makes it rather easy to get your hands on some spacecake which helpes to keep the spirits up.
      The biggest fear is the occasional cough, sneeze or hickup. Be carefull with fizzy drinks, because they easily provoke a hickup (at least in my case). Oh, and in the first week avoid watching anything that you might consider as funny. There’s no space for laughter in a bruised chest.

      I haven’t had the painfull spasms you described, but the fingers on my right hand have had the tendency to get a life of their own every now and then, but that isn’t painful. Just odd.
      I do have the weird feeling of actually noticing the bits ‘popping’ or moving. It’s a somewhat scary sensation and I sometimes wonder if everything will find its right place during healing.

      Do keep taking your painkillers as long as you can (I finished mine, but I got some extra for bad days), and I was advised to take some deep breaths a few times a day (despite the pain) to prevent getting a pneumonia.

      You’ll have good days, where you’ll feel like you’re really making progress and bad days where all the progress of the last few days seem to have evaporated. Don’t despair, it will just take time and patience. I spend lots of hours sitting straight on the edge of my chair at the desk photoshopping.
      Find something to take your mind of the pain and don’t fool yourself making plans (I’ll bet next week I’ll be able to…), that will only lead to dissapointment. Take each day as it comes.

      You’re right. This pain is ridiculous. If pain is an alarmsignal, why is there no ‘snooze-button’?
      Hang in there. (And avoid trees.)


  30. donna says:

    Hi Tim, the muscle spasms are killers! Mine got better after the two week period. If you can only sleep sitting up then have a load of cushions/ pillows behind you and a couple of rolled up blankets to rest your forearms on. I.m at 4 week stage now and while still really painful ( spent first night actually in my bed last night) no where nearly as bad as first couple of weeks. Just got xray reprt back and have broken two not one rib as i was told. I also had that weird bone movement feeling, kind of like a crunching, i googled it and said normal for broken ribs. Good luck!

  31. Janet says:

    I guess it is true that misery loves company….I am feeling better just from reading these posts! Two nights ago, I fractured #7 rib (and bruised a bunch). I lost my balance (tripping backwards over a box left on the floor) and smashed my side into the edge of a table. I seriously thought I’d never be able to breath again. But I am breathing, slow and shallow. Hourly I prepare to breath deeply, seeking solitude so that my groans don’t bother my husband. It is only day 2 and already I am sick of my misery! Dr. says 4-6 weeks of this!@!!!@
    However, this too shall pass. I am grateful to be alive. Thanks for sharing your stories. I feel better not being so alone!

    • Bob says:

      I’m in my fifth week now and last night I had my first proper sleep. The last two weeks I woke up with a painfull chest because during my sleep I must have turned on my bad side.
      It takes a while, Janet. But with patience you’ll get there.

      Good luck, and a speedy recovery!


    • Theo says:

      That’s how I feel; glad to be alive! I fell from a small stepladder whilst painting and remember thinking ” move legs, move legs…” and when I moved them I was so grateful that the pain was only excruciating in my torso!

  32. julie says:

    I’m almost positive I at least bruised a rip 2 nights ago by tripping and catching the corner of the dresser. It hurts to deep breathe, cough, laugh, bend over… Pretty much everything!! Seriously, this is painful! Just made the comment to my boyfriend tonight that I think it hurts worse at night. Last night, I woke up after about 4 hours of sleep, interrupted, in tears and just lie there. Have been trying to find the right way to sleep and I just can’t. I know i cant sleep on the affected side, that just hurts way too bad I cant bear it. Gonna try the recliner now, as I am lying on one now on the cushions. Glad.I came to this site and thanks to all for posting! Fingers crossed!

  33. Irene says:

    Wow it seems a lot of people are in need of pain relieve .

    I googled for some answers since my mother is in permanent pain so far. My advice to all of you is ask not just one doctor about your pain ,but at least 2. Sometimes doctors think they know everything and you have no choice but to trust someone who went to college for most of their lives to help you. My mother has been battling breast cancer since 1995 (right one,then the other ,and then it came back to the right one)..she now suffers from bone cancer. With that said shes been through many doctors. She had been complaining about chest pain for years now ,and no doctor who had viewed her scans(shes had about over 10 scans since 1995) ever told her she had broken ribs, the pain got worst and worst till she could just cry herself to sleep. right before her biopsy to get some bone test done ,that doctor told her that he was amazed that my mother has dealt with so much pain. Apparently her ribs broke, about 3 ,and healed pretty bad ,hugging her right lung. So as you can all imagine , this woman (my mother) is dealing with mayor pain. I can tell you there has not been anything I’ve found to make broken or painful chest pains go away. I did read that if they heal wrong you can ask your doctor if they can re break the bone to have it heal right, and that is exactly why we are making a doctors appointment soon. Lets see what the news is. But I do want to tell all of you, keep an eye on that chest pain, make sure your doctor gives you a scan to see how your ribs of healing soon. TELL THEM! or else your doctor mite just do the usual “you look great ,see ya next month”.

    Anyways good luck to all of you indeed.

  34. Bonshit says:

    Nice to know the information around. I cracked my left side ribs about 7 weeks ago as a result of rolling off my bed, trying to experience how it feels when sleeping on 3 queen matresses enseble. I was able to sleep comfortably anywhere because I would sleep on the unaffected side with a soft pillow for the head and a pillow between my thighs to make the body be more horizontal, with that i could easily get a good 6hour sleep. Afew days ago i had a big night and headed for the couch, i ended up sleeping on the affected side that had almost healed. The next morning i started having the same sympotoms i had the first time. I’m back to square one. So care should be taken seriosly till its completly healed up. Get well soon

  35. Maryanne says:

    Wow. i am up at 3 am feeling exhausted but also blissed to have found this page. Was packing for a trip ten days ago and inadvertently caught my stockinged foot on a cloth napkin. it sent me careening into a backwards fall first into a pickling crock and then frontwards into our smooth maple floor. At the ER was given morphine to get thru the xray. The doc said I could still travel two days later, but I pushed it back four just in case and went home with a scrip of Vicodin. At first, sleep was not a problem and my dreams were actually pretty calming. i wanted nothing but to lay down flat on my back, and for the first five nights, I slept through six to eight hours. Getting in and out of bed was awful, of course, but was made just a tad easier with the bracing given by an adjacent dresser to the bed.

    On day three of healing, I was in tears from the pain in the am and saw our fam doc to get her opinion. She told me ribs 8 and 9 were cracked and the back was clearly bruised. She encouraged me to get in aerobic exercise and warned against the belt, both strategies to avoid getting pneumonia, which actually is epidemic now for whatever reason. i am a runner, so walking I could gladly do. My sweet husband got me started and then friends have been coming to keep it going. i thought the double benefit would be improved sleep and overcoming the constipation inherent in pain meds, but only the latter has panned out. i also noticed that ehen I walk, I can tell I am getting stronger but my back hurts much more with extended standing later in the day, espesh while prepping salad and beans and rice. The sleep has actually been getting worse this week than last. I am also weaning myself off the meds and begun using arnica montana, the tiny homeopathics. Just can’t fathom using something that clouds my thoughts… it’s a quandary which is worse, foggy brain from lack of sleep or crazy meds. just popped two ibuprofren to see if that takes the edge off. Taking a nap right at noon for no more than two hours is essential no matter what!

    As for the trip I had planned, and not this nasty one I took instead, I am rescheduling it for six weeks out. Curious if the turbulence will be a problem. (Lesson learned – you will have to pay the change fee unless you BEG at the time you cancel or change your flight that the fee be waived. i was able to get out of the second change fee but not the first time, when my frazzled husband made the call.) And one last thing, i did have to use a shea and zinc oxide ointment for the butt burn from being so flat out. Did anyone else have that problem? It seems the same is true as I now try to make our big couch into a reclining bed. Thanks, all.

    • Linda says:

      Re Pain Meds
      I have found if you take a natural Stool Softner with your pain Meds you will not have constipation which was a problelem for me. Also I try to watch the clock and take meds before the others wear off otherwise you have to wait until it works which becomes very frustrating.

  36. Marty Edwards says:

    Ive found that (having a broken 7th rib for second time in 3 months) i basically cant sleep in ANY position. I just now two weeks later can sleep on the oposite side. My question is how is it possible to break the same rib in the same spot twice in three months?

  37. Jason says:

    Thank you all for all this inform,ation..I cracked 2 ribs 3 days ago…I dont think iv felt pain like this before. I had a really bad siezure while cleasning up and fell into the rim of the toilet. I sat there broom in hand for 20 minutes before i could even move. The sitting position technique has saved me alot of screaminly painful times in thesse 3 days…Got the pain meds, and i tried pain patches but i dont think they have helped much since then…

  38. martin says:

    well, thanks for all the good replies… i broke my ribs 7,8,9 in a motorcycle accident last week… unfortunately i also have hairline fractures on three vertebras… Now there’s the problem; the vertebras injury is best cured initially by lying flat on my back all day long for 15 days, but as you all know the ribs just hurt like crazy that way… I had many nasty injuries in my wild days but this one, oh my, i wouldn’t wish my worst enemy… I am so frightened of hiccups and sneezes, too, none yet so far haha…

  39. arunareject says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’m not injured, but my mom informed me this morning that she fell out of bed last night and hurt her rib. She said it’s not broken, but it’s bruised and it hurts. She said she took Aleeve and it was really helping. She spent the rest of the day sitting and watching TV. I thought she would be okay, but now she’s having trouble sleeping, because her rib and neck hurts, and she can’t turn her head. I Googled this, printed it out and showed it to her. She said she’s doing these things already, and that she cannot sleep without the pillow. I don’t know what else to do for her…

    I hope it will heal fast since it’s just a bruise.

    Good luck to everyone. I’ve never fractured a bone, so I can’t even imagine what this feels like, let alone help someone….

  40. maryanne says:

    Docs can’t do much for broken ribs, but knowing your mom did NOT puncture her lung is one of those times a picture is worth a thousand words in terms of assurance that she has no complications. Assuming her lungs are fine, it is critical that your mom – and every person with broken rib(s) – gets up and gets moving, even by day two or three – the aerobic exercise helps keep pneumonia at bay. If you thought a sneeze or hiccup was bad, you will have hell to pay if your lungs become infected.

    It has now been 6.5 weeks since my fall, and I am back to running and gardening, even push mowing, and now am on the planned “trip” delayed by this interlude. i am going to hold off another month on the heavy lifting, including my 40# suitcase, though, as I do occasionally still need an ice pack on the pulled back muscles. Tissue repair takes a LONG time, even for people half my age, but the rib injury was way harder to get to sleep on than previous cycling injuries of a broken collar bone and torn rotator cuff. I was OFF the vicodin by ten days, and that is what I recommend as it is a highly psychologically addicitive narcotic. Fortunately, the bed warmer under the mattress pad gave quick relief and brought on slumber. As the days turned to weeks, I COULD roll over! Yes – Hang in there, arunareject. Your support is SO appreciated by your mom!

    • arunareject says:

      Thank you. πŸ™‚ She’s feeling better today. She went grocery shopping today, and tonight before going to bed she said she “can handle it. :)”.

      Happy to hear about your vacation, gardening, and running. Sounds like you have a nice life. πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for the reassurance and encouragement.

      • maryanne says:

        Having a daughter like you makes all things possible! Show her this blog b/c everyone’s stories are SO helpful with comforting words and helpful tips. Oceans may divide us, but conquering rib pain, at night no less, united us!

  41. I fell in the garden nearly 2 weeks ago bruised ribs I have not felt pain like this I was very interested in all the comments I went to casualty twice will try sleeping in a chair tonight

  42. Gladys says:

    I too have 3 broken ribs, l1 through L3 of my spine is broken, a puncutured lung, and I am scraped from head to toe (all on the left side) and from an ATV accident. As for me; I am not sleeping no matter what I do. I am literally about to lose my mind! Though I am out of the hospital, my lungs are healing, etc; I am falling into a deep depression. We actually have a hospital bed at home, multiple recliners in my husband’s man cave, and nothing helps. As a woman, wearing a bra is a no go, and laying on my back is horrible as my breast add pressure and pain! My male doctors (and I have a host of them now) are not understanding or supportive in any way!

    I wouldnt wish this on anyone!

    Sorry to vent/whine….

    • Maryanne says:

      Hang in there, Gladys. this first stretch is so so hard. Lighten up on yourself and view this as an opportunity to catch up on old friends, learn to say YES when people offer to help, and if they don’t offer, it’s okay ask for what you need. be sure to have a clinician check on you to make sure you are okay. It was not all that long ago that someone with your injuries would have been hospitalized but mow we know that you are safer outside those walls than within. And a punctured lung on top of broken ribs must be so painful! i know when I say my doc on day three it helped so much to know this as mot all in my head.

      even though you may not want to, take your pain meds before you start to feel the pain coming back on. This is exactly why researchers spend countless hours in labs, perfecting pain management for your scenario. Count your blessings and healing thoughts will flood you!

      • Gladys says:

        Thanks Maryanne, last night I actually slept for about three hours. My husband took me to the Sybaris Hotel where I was able to soak in a hot tub for a few hours. Things are going to get better, it’s just remaining positive through the pain and finding a way to obtain a good night’s sleep consistently.

        Again thank you for the encouraging words.

    • Linda says:

      Gladys, I am an Osteoporosis patient and the last. trip and fall also broke a rib..I can honestly say nothing has ever hurt as bad as this rib and of course there is nothing they can do about it. Things will get better, it just takes time and I agree re male doctors not knowing what women go through, there just is no way they can. Good Luck to all of you.

  43. Maryanne says:

    Sweet man… sounds like a keeper! i loved heat, like you found i n that hot tub, espesh our mattress heater for inducing comforting sleep. But you also might want to find a polar pack ice therapy machine to get you through the recovery from all that bruising. keep your spirits high and you WILL get to the other side of this with much joy in your heat as you attack that bucket list, whole and complete!

  44. octavio Mari.ez says:

    Thank you for the tips I broke 4 ribs on a fourwheeler roll over its been 4 days and now that im not in a recliner I feel the pain.I was taken pain killers but I need some now. The recliner helps out so much

  45. Gio says:

    I fractured a rib 2 days ago by coughing soon as I woke up. The same rib I had broken 2 months ago in a car crash.. Be careful people, this Rib business is no joke and I wish they prescribed me something a bit stronger! Sleeping is like trying to win an arm wrestle against the hulk. I realize back when I had originally broke it I was smoking a great amount of weed.. Which I can’t say helped the healing process but did help me im some way from feeling pain and I definitely got sleep. I quit smoking. This may sound impossible but try to refrain yourselves from sneezing, coughing, burping or even letting out that gas! Currently, I’m sleeping on a inclined bed.. Sleeping isn’t even the word. I feel like rambo the next morning just for making it through the night.
    Hey I’m only 19, I can survive right ? Some of your stories sound brutal .. All the best! You know what they say about broken ribs right ?! … “Fuck!”

  46. Micaela says:

    Day 3 with a broken rib. About 1 1/2 weeks ago I was extremely sick with severe coughing. I woke up in a coughing fit and a nagging pain in my left side. It wasn’t unbearable so I shrugged it off and dealt with it. Which was pretty much my only choice considering I have a 1 and 2 year old to take care of. Well Wednesday night I was having a good night with my family and my son began crying. I walked over and picked him up. As I straightened up I felt a POP! I couldn’t move or breathe. I screamed for my mother to take my son for fear that I would drop him. I managed to make it to the couch and tried to wait it out until I could no longer handle the pain.

    Off to the ER I went. Every turn in the car was miserable, any bump in the road felt like I was being stabbed in my side! After a few hours, a few painful exams, a painkiller (i cannot stand the feeling painkillers give me) and about 8 X-rays, they came in and told me I have a broken rib. oh great a broken rib, my first broken bone in my short 22 years. And it wasn’t even a cool story to tell. But anyways, basically all I got from the doctor was to take painkillers and deal. It took nearly 3 hours to get into a comfy position to go to sleep. It almost seems as if every night is harder to get to sleep than the night before. Last night I layed down around 11 and was still up at 4:30 trying to figure out a good position.

    I am going to try the inclined sleep, I would do anything for a few hours of uninterrupted non painful sleep. Thank goodness my parents are taking “shifts” to help me with the babies! I seriously don’t know what I would do without them! Now I’m just counting down the days until I can hold my children. Almost feels like I’m being punished for getting hurt.

  47. Russell says:

    Well 9 days into my ribfest and it seems to getting worse not better. I fell over yes OVER my electric scooter, to hit the floor of my garage with a bang. After a couple of minutes I managed to get to my feet and was breathless, and in considerable pain. I recognised the signs of my ribs having been broken, little did I know that the next morning,the pain in my coccyx would be excruciating, which kind of made the rib pain more tolerable, that is how bloody painful my bruised coccyx was. So now I found myself not being able to sit down, stand up lay down or sleep at all, even worse my wife thinks I am putting this on because I have very little external signs of the pain I am in, so not much sympathy to be had there then.

    Anyway getting back to the ribs on day nine. I stupidly thought after 7 days with the pain easing I would join my mates down the pub for a few games of pool, this was a big mistake, as I have now found that my ribs are hurting with a vengeance, this has come about by stretching over the pool table and unsettling the healing, boy does it hurt.

    The moral of the story so far is. Put some make up in areas where the pain is, so as when you show your other half they will see the outward signs of severe bruising and become immediately sympathetic. Oh and don’t play POOL until everything has mended.


  48. Ben says:

    I fell off my bike 8 days ago; over the handlebars as my front wheel came up against a curb, then down chest first on to said curb. Then the bike landed on me. I felt something give in my chest as I landed (i’m a fairly heavy set guy), and as I lay there, I didn’t even try to hide the pain and just started crying out in pain. Hell’s bells it hurt. I didn’t even notice the thistle and nettles trapped in my shoe against my shin for 5 minutes as I was helped up by a couple of passer bys.

    Even now, 8 days on, the pain is still considerable (I’d actually wager it is as bad as ever if not worse?!) so I’m pounding cocodamol and ibuprofen – the maximum dosage only, but staggered to relieve the pain as much as possible. But yeah, sleeping hurts like hell. May try the strap thing suggested in this post, but I haven’t been to a doc about it yet as all they can say is take it easy!

    Ah well, glad i’m not the only one going through this!


    Ben and in case you’re bored?

  49. My spouse and I stumbled over here by a different page and thought I should check things out.

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  50. Naomi says:

    I cracked two ribs almost two weeks ago falling badly off a circus balancing ball (!) and Ouch it is still soo achey and sore! I’m ok now standing or sitting still but the worst part is not sleeping and that lying down is horribly painful. By today I can give a little laugh – not being able to laugh was a sad thing.

    I came off painkillers 36 hours ago because I’m fed up with having taken so many already and they make my stomach burn but pain wise its like going back a week (yes, a week ago it was this painful with painkillers) so I may well give in and start taking them again for a while longer. I’m also taking homeopathic Bryonia remedy which is specifically indicated for broken ribs.

    So really I’m glad to have found this site and read about all you good people out there who know just what it’s like and who can’t/couldn’t sleep either – because reading this I feel better, not alon, like being part of a community!

    Thanks everyone. And Healing Wishes to all who follow.

    • Paula says:

      You’re right – not being able to laugh is the worst thing about a factured rib. I’m into day nine and I still can’t laugh. I think I’m losing my sense of humor. Hope you all feel better soon.

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