Rib pain is nothing to mess with. Whether you fell on a rail, smacked the water, or feel pain from overuse, rib pain is something that is unforgettable. Pain around the ribs is very significant due to the inflamed intercostal nerves, which are very sensitive and run in between each rib. The pain can range from acute, stabbing, tearing pain, to a simple dull ache. Also between each rib is intercostal muscle as well as ligaments and tendons, which can be torn or pulled, also leading to pain on or around the rib cage. The bones of the rib cage can break, from impact, which can lead to local pain directly over the region affected.
How do you know for sure you’ve injured your ribs? Look for:
1. Pain in the vicinity of the rib cage.
2. Bruising or swelling around the ribs.
3. Pain with pressure, contraction of the abdominal muscles, or deep inhalation.
4. Pain when stretching the rib cage area or twisting of the torso.
5. Pain that wraps around the chest and is band-like.
When to see a doctor:
1. If breathing becomes difficult or you experience any shortness of breath.
2. If you think you may have broken a rib.
3. Pain in a band that is accompanied by a rash.
What to do if you’ve injured your ribs:
Rest. Overusing the ribs or attempting to push through will only cause the injury to stick around longer. Take some time off and avoid re aggravation.
Ice. Icing the area for 15-20 minutes, multiple times per day will decrease local inflammation and reduce pain.
Take normal sized breaths. Avoiding full lung capacity will only increase the risk of lung infection, so try to breath normally, with occasional deep breaths, even if it is painful.
Protect the area. Be careful to avoid contact or activity that will further injure the ribs. KT taping is also helpful to temporarily support the ribs and surrounding tissues to speed healing.
Use massage or Graston/Gua Sha. These techniques can help to align torn fibers, reduce scar tissue and adhesion in the fascia, increase circulation, and speed healing.
The best way to help rib pain is to avoid injury or overuse in the first place! If trying new tricks or rails, wear a fully padded vest to ensure extra cushion in case of falls. Also, strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, back, and shoulders will secure the extra strength so the rib cage is protected. Happy Riding!