Slipping Rib Syndrome & Exercise

Slipping rib syndrome is also known as Tietze's syndrome, after the doctor who first described it in 1921. It is a softening of the cartilage that holds your ribs to the sternum and allows movement of the rib joint in such a way that it slides out of its normal position and under the rib above it.

Exercise Considerations for Slipping Rib Syndrome

Before beginning any exercises for slipping rib syndrome, understand that the problem is a weakness of the cartilage and not the muscle. Many exercises can exacerbate the problem and slow the healing process. Some cases will progress to become chronic problems that require injections for pain or even surgery to stabilize the affected joints.

Exercises to Avoid

Because of the inherent instability of joints, exercises that put direct pressure on your chest should be avoided. Pushups or exercises that involve pitching or throwing motions increase risk. Sports that involve a potential for contact with other athletes such as football or basketball should be avoided until the condition resolves.

Early Exercise

In the beginning stage of recovery, segmental breathing is used to gain more mobility in the ribs. Pressure is applied, usually by a therapist, to where the ribs join the sternum. You need to breathe in and expand your lungs while the pressure is applied. The pressure is moved from one segment to another while long slow breaths are drawn in to put pressure against the therapist's hand.

Expanding Exercises

To increase mobility around the rib joints, thoracic extension and flexion exercises can be used. In these exercises, arch your back and allow your rib cage to expand, then bend forward and compress your chest and ribs. This should only be done to the limits of your comfort. Seated rotation exercises can be done by sitting and turning your chest and shoulders as far one side as you can, like you're turning and looking over your shoulder, then turning to the other side. Use caution and go slowly to avoid injury.

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