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. Put ice cubes in a plastic bag or use a cold pack. 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 as needed for the relief of 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.

  • If you have a significant 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 seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for any of the following:

  • Increasing chest pain with breathing

  • Coughing

  • New or worsening pain

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

Call 911

Call 911, or get medical care right away if any of the following occur:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

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