How to Relieve the Pain of Bruised Ribs

Your ribcage consists of 12 ribs, with muscles and tendons between each rib. If you play a contact sport or have experienced trauma to the torso, such as after a car accident, you could be experiencing bruised ribs. This means the tissue around the ribs has been injured, but the bones themselves are not cracked or fractured. Bruised-rib symptoms include abdominal or chest pain that worsens when you sneeze, take a deep breath or cough forcefully. If you do experience bruised ribs, there are methods to deal with the pain while your body recovers.

When you have bruised ribs, there are a few steps you can take to avoid pain and aid recovery. (Image: Drobot Dean/Adobe Stock)

Step 1

Ice your affected ribs. You can purchase an ice pack or create your own by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag and covering the bag with a hand towel. Apply the ice to the area in 10- to 15-minute increments. Icing the area helps to relieve inflammation and its associated pain.

Step 2

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications help to reduce blood vessel swelling and relieve pain as your ribs heal. Use only as directed to avoid damage to your stomach lining.

Step 3

Limit movement as much as possible, especially twisting or lifting movements. Although it can be frustrating to remain sedentary, doing so prevents further stretching and straining of the ribs that can advance the injury. You should occasionally perform exercises like pointing and flexing the foot in order to maintain good circulation to your extremities while you rest.

Step 4

Increase your intake of fluid and fiber-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Constipation is a common side effect of being sedentary when recovering from a bruised rib. By maintaining a healthy digestive system, you can reduce abdominal pain that can accompany rib bruising.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice pack

  • Over-the-counter pain reliever


If your bruised rib pain does not respond to over-the-counter medications, your physician may prescribe a stronger pain reliever or recommend an anesthesia injection into the affected area. Because bruised ribs can affect how you breathe, the injection can be necessary in some instances.

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