Rib Bruise

A rib bruise (contusion) can affect one or more rib bones. It may cause pain, tenderness, swelling, and a purplish discoloration. There may be a sharp pain while breathing.

You will be assessed for other injuries. You will likely be given pain medicine. Bruised ribs heal on their own, without further treatment. But the pain may take weeks to months to go away. 

Note that a small crack (fracture) in the rib may cause the same symptoms as a bruised rib. The small crack may not be seen on a chest X-ray. But the conditions are managed in the same way.

Home care

  • Rest. Don't do heavy lifting, strenuous exertion, or any activity that causes pain.

  • Ice the area to reduce pain and swelling. Use an ice pack or a cold pack. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the cold source in a thin towel. Don't place it directly on your skin. Ice the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Continue with ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • Take any prescribed pain medicine as directed by your healthcare provider. If none was prescribed, take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen to control pain. Talk with your provider before taking these medicines if you have a history of kidney or liver problems. Or if you've ever had gastrointestinal bleeding or stomach ulcers.

  • If you have a major injury, you may be given a device called an incentive spirometer to keep your lungs healthy. Use as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Increasing chest pain with breathing

  • Coughing

  • Pain that's new or has gotten worse

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your provider

Call 911

Call 911 or get medical care right away if any of these occur:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

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