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Rib Fracture


A rib fracture is a crack or break in a rib bone. Rib fractures usually heal within 6 weeks. You should be able to return to normal activities before that time. Do not wrap anything around your body to try to splint your ribs. This can prevent you from taking deep breaths and increases your risk for pneumonia.

Rib Cage


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have new or increased pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your pain does not get better, even after treatment.
  • You have a fever or a cough.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider 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.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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:

Deep breathing will decrease your risk for pneumonia. Hug a pillow on the injured side while doing this exercise, to decrease pain. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as possible. You should let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth. Take a slow, deep breath. You should then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.


Rest and limit activity to decrease swelling and pain, and allow your injury to heal. Avoid activities that may cause more pain or damage to your ribs such as, pulling, pushing, and lifting. As your pain decreases, begin movements slowly. Take short walks between rest periods.


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

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Rib Fracture (Discharge Care)

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