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Broken or bruised ribs

Broken or bruised ribs are common chest injuries usually caused by a fall, a blow to the chest or severe coughing.

Symptoms of broken or bruised ribs are very similar. They include pain, swelling or bruising in your chest. The pain may be worse when breathing in.

Broken or bruised ribs are usually left to heal naturally. Painkillers and ice packs (or a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel) can help with the pain.

Read more on the NHS website.

Symptoms of broken or bruised ribs are very similar. They include pain, swelling or bruising in your chest. The pain may be worse when breathing in.

Check if you have a bruised or broken rib

Broken or bruised ribs are usually caused by a fall, a blow to the chest or severe coughing.

Symptoms include:

Ribs cannot be easily splinted or supported like other bones, so they're usually left to heal naturally.

There's often no need for an X-ray.

Read more on the NHS website.

Broken or bruised ribs are usually left to heal naturally. Painkillers and ice packs (or a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel) can help with the pain.

Self-care

Broken or bruised ribs heal in the same way and usually get better by themselves within 3 to 6 weeks.

There are some things you can do to help ease pain and speed up healing:


Do

  • take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – avoid taking ibuprofen for 48 hours after your injury as it may slow down healing
  • hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel) to the affected ribs regularly in the first few days to bring down swelling
  • rest and take time off work if you need to
  • breathe normally and cough when you need to – this helps clear mucus from your lungs to prevent chest infections
  • if you need to cough, hold a pillow against your chest
  • walk around and sometimes move your shoulders to help you breathe and clear mucus from your lungs
  • take 10 slow, deep breaths every hour to help clear your lungs
  • try to sleep more upright for the first few nights

Don't

  • do not wrap a bandage tightly around your chest to stop your lungs expanding properly
  • do not lie down or stay still for a long time
  • do not strain yourself or lift heavy objects
  • do not play any sports or do any exercise that makes your pain worse
  • do not smoke – stopping smoking may also help your recovery

Read more on the NHS website.