Recovering from a rib injury, whether cracked, broken, or strained, can take many painful months. A patient also becomes misaligned due to overcompensating for the injured region. This can lead to other kinds of referred pain in the back, legs, arms, chest, neck, and other muscles. Chiropractic treatment could alleviate some of these difficulties.
Traditional Medical Treatment for Broken Ribs
Broken ribs can be caused by car accidents, falls, sports, or even prolonged periods of coughing. Traditional medical treatment for broken ribs used to be taping the injured area, with compression wraps, and pain medications. Over time, doctors stopped taping the ribs, due to the risk of pneumonia. If a patient cannot breathe properly, the lungs could retain fluid. Doctors still use “Over-the-counter drugs…stronger pain medications…(or) Nerve blocks…long-lasting anesthesia around the nerves” to manage a patient’s pain in order to help them breathe in and out completely.1
Chiropractic Treatment of Rib Pain
Rib pain can be severe enough to feel like a heart attack, and it is a stabbing pain. Causes of rib pain can include “costochondritis, intercostal neuritis, (or) costo-transverse sprain”. Costrochondritis is inflamed rib cartilage and intercostal neuritis is an “inflammation of the nerve between the ribs”. Costo-transverse sprain is the most common rib pain, often something a person finds from “sleeping in an awkward position”. Rib pain is acute and responds quickly in a few chiropractic treatments. The people most at risk of chronic rib pain are those with: “poor thoracic core muscles, increased thoracic curvature (kyphosis), sedentary occupations, women with large breasts, people who carry loads for prolonged times, and in scoliosis of the mid-back”. Some medical conditions can also cause rib pain. Chiropractors use a variety of treatments “to restore the movement, reduce pain and reduce the muscle spasm”.2
Chiropractic Treatment of Broken Ribs
If a patient receives sufficient rest and icing after breaking a rib, chiropractors can provide adjustments with “specific soft tissue work around the affected rib”, according to Dr. Brendon O’Brien D.C.3 Rib pain can be caused by “subluxations… where the vertebrae of the thoracic spine become statically misaligned…resulting in pain, muscle spasm, and sometime nerve malfunction.” A chiropractor may perform an X-ray to check for injuries, and they may also check for osteoporosis (a condition which can lead to additional fractures). Treatments can include low-level laser therapy (LLLT), to assist with treating inflammation, or electronic muscle stimulation. The latter can help strains and spasms. By aligning the body properly and allowing it to move more freely, it can more effectively heal itself.4 treating the underlying causes of the pain is how chiropractic care differs from the traditionally medical approach of recommending pain medication.