Diagnosing A Rib Fracture.

How do you know you have broken rib?


  • You will have pain over the site when coughing.
  • Pain over the site when laughing.
  • Pain over the site when trying to sleep or trying to get up from a sleeping position.
  • The pain is very localised over the site.
  • Deep inhalation will cause pain over the site of fracture

Treatment is usually rest with rib strapping.

Very minimal comlications but you may develop pnuemonia from shallow breathing. It usually takes about 6 weeks for complete healinng and maybe a few more weeks for the bone to regain full strength.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
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5 Responses to Diagnosing A Rib Fracture.

  1. Slava says:

    Hi, I am practicing judo, last night I was thrown fairly hard, did not have time to do break-in-fall properly and landed on the side of my back, then I got up and after taking a few breathes continued randori. On my way home I have noticed that my ribs hurt right above my left kidney, it kind of hurts when I breathe in, when I move, but I slept fine all night turning allover like I normally do, when I move my torso I am experiencing some discomfort. There is no bruising in the area where it hurts, and it does not appear to be inflamed from what I could tell. So I was wondering how could I tell if it is just a muscle hurts from falling flat on it or there is something more serious and I need to go so my doctor, or even worse suspend my judo practice? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • rodney itaki says:

      You need to go and see a doctor and get an x-ray. If a rib is broken it will show. If it is only muscles or soft tissue it may take a few weeks before you recover to train again but I would advice to go and see your family doctor.

      • Slava says:

        Yes thank you, it was over a year ago, and I did have 2 cracked ribs, kept me away from the mat for 2 month 😦

  2. rodney itaki says:

    Hope you are enjoying your training now.

  3. Robert Simmons, PA-C says:

    Despite what the article says, you should *never* “strap” a broken rib(s)! Strapping will significantly restrict breathing (which is already difficult due to pain), and this restricted air flow will often result in atelectesis (collapse of alveoli [“air sacs”]) and serious pneumonia. If your rib fracture involves more than 1 rib, or if you are having significant trouble breathing, your ONLY treatment should be an immediate visit to your Doctor or other Primary Care Provider!

    In the case of a single fracture, you can help to relieve the pain (only partially I’m afraid – all fractures hurt, but rib fractures are aming the worst because the bone is further irritated every time you breathe) with aspirin if you are over 21, or naproxen (generic product sold under many names). Get lots of rest and be certain to breathe very deeply at least once an hour (more if you can stand it) – this deep breathing will help to prevent both atelectesis and subsequent pneumonia.

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