Most broken ribs heal on their own within six weeks. Restricting activities and icing the area regularly can help with healing and pain relief.
It's important to obtain adequate pain relief — if it hurts to breathe deeply, you may develop pneumonia. If oral medications don't help enough, your doctor might suggest injections of long-lasting anesthesia around the nerves that supply the ribs.
Once your pain is under control, your doctor might prescribe breathing exercises to help you breathe more deeply because shallow breathing can put you at risk of developing pneumonia.
In the past, doctors would use compression wraps — elastic bandages that you can wrap around your chest — to help splint and immobilize the area. Compression wraps aren't recommended for broken ribs anymore because they can keep you from breathing deeply, which can increase the risk of pneumonia.
Aug. 04, 2017
- Karlson KA. Initial evaluation and management of rib fractures. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 30, 2015.
- Eiff MP, et al. Rib fractures. In: Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 30, 2015.
- Bulger EM. Inpatient management of traumatic rib fracture. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 30, 2015.
- Preventing falls and related fractures. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent_falls_ff.asp. Accessed Oct. 30, 2015.