24 Jan Broken Ribs – Nobody’s Idea of Fun
The human body has 24 ribs, 12 on each side of the rib cage, which gives architectural security to some of your most vital organs, such as your heart and lungs. Interestingly, the heart and lungs are busy organs that require a little room to do their work, which is why a cage, as opposed to the stomach, liver, protects them and intestines which do not expand and contract on a regular basis. As such, the importance of the heart and lung aside, the more shape-consistent organs can exist outside of the protective cage.
The most common rib injury is a cracked rib that can occur from a fall, a hard blow from a blunt object, or a collision that occurs during a car accident. The second most common occurrence is a broken rib, which defines an injury of a rib so severe the bone is broken into two pieces. This can also be painful, but it also puts your lungs and other organs in harm’s way, as the sharp ends could puncture the soft tissue of these critical organs.
A cracked or broken rib is frequently seen as a mysterious injury because people are baffled by how a cracked or broken rib is treated. In truth, there is not much a doctor can do except to surgically align the bones if they are critically out of position. As noted by the Mayo Clinic “Most broken ribs heal on their own within six weeks. Restricting activities and icing the area regularly can help with healing and pain relief.”
Beyond restricting activities and wearing a brace to either control movement or protect the ribs from further injury, treatment involves rest, physical therapy (in the form of breathing exercises), and the use of pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
As always, a proper diagnosis is extremely important with cracked or broken ribs and this is done with a physical exam and imaging technology, such as X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
The diagnosis is important as it could lead to the discovery of contributing factors. Besides the risks associated with collision sports (or any vigorous sport) the condition called osteoporosis can contribute to weak rib bones. This is a condition in which bones lose their density, which makes them more fragile. It is a common condition associated with old age.
Cancerous legions on a rib can also contribute to a weaker condition that leads to a fracture or a break. Early detection of cancer is also extremely important. Looking for this underlying cause if you experience a rib injury can be life-saving.
A broken or fractured rib can make breathing painful. This can lead to shallow breathing, which contributes to dizziness, but could also increase the risk of pneumonia.
The most common complications involve the possibility of a puncture or tear in your lungs or heart. A sharp break is especially risky if it occurs in the first three ribs, which are designated numerically beginning with the top rib.
A broken rib can also be due to injury to your spleen, liver, or kidneys. The risk of these injuries is associated with breaks of the lower two ribs, which is comparatively rare. The lower ribs are more flexible than the higher ribs, which makes them less prone to fractures or breaks.
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Medical pain management clinic specializing in care for auto accident patients. Call 719-917-1000