Exercises for bruised ribs can help you recover faster and fight pneumonia, which is one risk of rib injuries. Try to stay active, even though it might be painful. Stretching, walking and other gentle activities are best.
With a bruised rib, you can still do lower body or cardiovascular exercises, but don't pursue anything that starts to hurt.
Diagnosing a Bruised Rib
Contact sports like football and martial arts may put you at risk of bruising one or more ribs. In addition to high-impact activities, something as seemingly insignificant as a persistent cough can cause a bruised rib, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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Although not as serious as a broken rib, training with bruised ribs is painful and scary. Their symptoms are different than those of a bruise to your leg or shoulder, with the typical black and blue spotting. You might not see any discoloration or swelling since the blood is pooling deeper under the skin.
According to Kaiser Permanente, the symptoms of a broken or bruised rib might be the same. You might need X-rays to determine the severity of your injury. Either way, you'll most likely feel a sharp pain in your ribs when you breathe deeply or cough.
Read more: Therapy for Intercostal Muscles
Treating Bruised Ribs
If your doctor determines that you have a bruised rib, he might give you pain medication. Alternatively, he might recommend an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen and ice for the affected area, states the University of Michigan Medicine.
There's not much more they can do in terms of medical treatment. The ribs will heal slowly on their own as long as you allow them to rest. Pain medications can make you more comfortable and help you take deeper breaths.
One of the biggest dangers of bruised ribs is fluid buildup in the lungs. Due to the pain from taking deep breaths, it might be tempting to breathe short and shallow. It also might be tempting to stay in bed and rest, which may further increase fluid buildup. Eventually, that can turn into pneumonia.
The first and perhaps most important exercise you can do is deep breathing. With respiratory exercises, you can keep your lungs clear and healthy. Intermountain Healthcare recommends doing eight to 10 sessions of deep breathing every day. They suggest using a spirometer, which is a device that measures the power of your breathing.
Training With Bruised Ribs
In terms of exercise, you should avoid lifting weights, according to the doctors at Mount Sinai. In particular, they recommend avoiding abdominal exercises like crunches and any pushing or pulling movements. Walking and running are allowed as long as they're not painful.
While you might not be able to lift weights, cardio exercises should help. The soreness from your injury should go away within a week, says the University of North Carolina Wilmington. You can afford to take it easy and focus on other aspects of fitness for a week without losing a significant amount of strength.
That being said, be patient and wait for your rib to heal before you return to your normal activities. Use your pain as a guide. If something hurts, don't do it. It's better to wait a few more days or weeks than risk injuring your ribs further.
A small study involving 15 people with multiple rib fractures, published in Disability and Rehabilitation in August 2017, discusses the challenges associated with rib injury rehabilitation. More than the actual injury, the fear associated with rib pain is typically the most troubling challenge for patients.
The researchers explain that many people don't return to their full capacity after a rib injury. That's mostly due to the apprehension and feeling of unease surrounding training with bruised ribs. In the end, they recommend that rehabilitation should revolve around managing pain and well-being, as well as respiratory fitness.
- Disability and Rehabilitation: "Challenges Experienced During Rehabilitation After Traumatic Multiple Rib Fractures: A Qualitative Study."
- University of North Carolina Wilmington: "Instruction Sheet: Rib/Chest Bruise"
- Mount Sinai: "Rib Fracture - Aftercare"
- Intermountain Healthcare: "Rib Fractures and Chest Wall Injuries"
- University of Michigan Medicine: "Fractured Rib"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Bruised Rib: Care Instructions"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Bruised Rib Care"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.