Rib Contusion or Minor Fracture

A rib contusion is a bruise to one or more rib bones. It may cause pain, tenderness, swelling, and a purplish color to the skin. There may be a sharp pain with each breath. A rib contusion takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal. A minor rib fracture or break may cause the same symptoms as a rib contusion. The small crack may not be seen on a regular chest X-ray. Treatment for both problems is basically the same.

Home care

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

  • Rest. Don't lift anything heavy or do any activity that causes pain.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice or an ice pack directly on the skin. Continue with ice packs as needed for the relief of pain and swelling.

  • The first 3 to 4 weeks of healing will be the most painful. If your pain is not under control with the treatment given, call your healthcare provider. Sometimes a stronger pain medicine may be needed. A nerve block can be done in case of severe pain. It will numb the nerve between the ribs.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Dizziness, weakness or fainting

  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort

  • New or worsening pain

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

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

  • Chills

  • Stomach pain, vomiting

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