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Rib Fracture


A rib fracture is a crack or break in a rib bone. Your ribs are the bones that connect from the front of your chest around to your spine (backbone). All of the bones of your ribs make your rib cage.



  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain. You can buy acetaminophen without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Pain medicines: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Deep breathing:

  • To help prevent pneumonia, take 10 deep breaths every hour, even when you wake up during the night. Brace your ribs with your hands or a pillow while you take the deep breaths to help decrease the pain.
  • You may need to use an incentive spirometer to help you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a very deep breath. Hold your breath as long as you can. Then let out your breath. Do this 10 times in a row every hour while you are awake.


Rest your ribs to decrease swelling and allow the injury to heal faster. This may take up to 6 weeks. Avoid activities that may cause more pain or damage to your ribs. As your pain decreases, begin movements slowly.


Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your fractured area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have bruising on your chest.
  • You get a cold and are coughing a lot.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You suddenly have more severe chest pain. You may cough up blood.
  • You have a fever or chills and increased shortness of breath.
  • You have abdominal pain.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.