The most common cause of broken ribs is a major blow to the chest, for example, from a fall or sudden impact, as in a sporting tackle. Often broken ribs are actually cracked or fractured and, while painful and tender, heal themselves over time. Once the initial pain, swelling and discomfort when moving have eased, gentle stretching exercises can restore range of motion.
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Immediate treatment of a cracked or broken rib is rest and pain medication, such as codeine, paracetamol or ibuprofen. It is important not to just put up with pain, because this can cause you to take shallow breaths, which can in turn, lead to lung problems and even pneumonia, says the Patient UK website.
Bandaging or compressing broken or cracked ribs can also impede your breathing and is, therefore, not recommended as treatment for this injury. Before starting any rehabilitation – usually aimed at improving your posture, strength and flexibility -- talk to your doctor.
This exercise stretches the chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Sit or stand up straight and bend your arms to 90 degrees. Draw your shoulder blades together at the back, moving your elbows back behind you as you do so. Squeeze as hard as you can without causing any pain, holding for a couple of seconds, then relax and repeat 10 times. Try to do three sets of 10 throughout the day.
Doorway Chest Stretch
This exercise provides a good stretch for your pectorals as well as the intercostal muscles between your ribs. Stand in a doorway, with your arms bent out to your sides at 90 degrees and your forearms resting on the doorframe. Keeping your arms in this position, inhale and, as you breathe out, push your chest forward through doorway, keeping your arms on the frame. This will increase the stretch across your chest.
Range-of-motion exercises can help restore your chest mobility and your joint and muscle health. It targets your shoulders, but also gently stretches your chest and ribs. Stand or sit up straight, making sure you have space around you to stretch your arms out in all directions. Bring one arm straight up in front of you until it's in line with your ear then lower it back down. Next, raise it back behind you, and lower. Finally, raise your arm out to the side, lower it, and then stretch it across your body at shoulder height. Repeat these stretches with your other arm.