Is It Safe to Work Out With a Fractured Rib?

You've suffered a fractured rib, and now, every time you bend and twist, your rib cage becomes more painful. While the best treatment for a fractured rib is rest and immobilization, depending on how big a crack you've incurred, you might be able to continue with a portion of your workout routine.

Rib fractures can complicate your workout. (Image: eclipse_images/E+/GettyImages)

Before undertaking any exercise, however, you should consult your doctor and follow her instructions to avoid further complications.

Tip

To avoid further injury, seek advice from a health care professional before working out with a fractured rib.

Warnings for Fractured Ribs

Your pain level will guide the amount of exercise and physical activity your fractured rib can withstand. Before starting any workouts, you should get checked by a doctor to make sure your rib has not punctured or damaged any of the organs it protects.

The PhysioAdvisor website recommends that you avoid any activity that places stress on the fracture, such as lying on that side or performing any exercises that cause you to wince.

Rest is the primary treatment for broken ribs. As your pain subsides, you can increase the amount of activity you perform.

Early Strengthening Exercise

Prepare for your workouts by strengthening your rib cage with shoulder-blade squeezes. This exercise stretches the surrounding muscles and ligaments, and helps you to maintain proper posture that will allow you to continue with modified workouts.

Stand straight and bend your arms at your sides at a 90-degree angle, with fists facing forward. Squeeze your shoulders blades back as far as you can without increasing your pain level. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 10 times at least three times each day.

Deep-Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing is a vital piece of rehabilitation from a fractured rib. Taking deep breaths might be uncomfortable, but you've got to work through that pain to maintain sufficient lung capacity to do any kind of exercise. Deep breathing exercises also ensure that you won't experience a collapsed lung when you try to work out.

Sit or stand up straight and take a deep breath through your nose, filling your diaphragm. Breathe out through your mouth. Repeat five times often throughout the day. Take breaks during your exercising to take a few deep, controlled breaths.

Ease Back Into It

For the first couple weeks after your injury, you might have to wear a sling to immobilize your ribs to prevent further damage. During this time, you should concentrate on lower-body workouts, such as leg presses and leg lifts. Continue walking on the treadmill, but avoid high-impact activity, like running, that jars your rib cage.

After you lose the sling, get back into upper-body exercises slowly. For example, if you were lifting 20-pound free weights before your injury, start back with 5-pound weights and see how it feels. Gradually increase the amount to 8 pounds, then 10. By easing back into your normal routines, you'll continue to heal without losing much momentum.

Ice can be applied for 10 to 15 minutes after exercise to help reduce soreness.

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