Subluxated Ribs From Back Squats

Exercise class
Back squats, like other forms of weight lifting, can cause rib subluxations. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A subluxation is a slight dislocation or misalignment of a bone. Your ribs normally move in a smooth gliding motion, but a subluxation can make the joint jam and cause pain that is so severe you can hardly breathe. Surrounding muscles may go into spasm and the pain may be aggravated by movement or even breathing. A rib subluxation can also cause costochondritis, a type of chest pain. Performing back squats can cause one or more ribs to subluxate.

Rib Anatomy

Your ribs attach to the middle back, or thoracic, spine and to the breast bone or sternum in the front. Of the 12 ribs, 10 are attached and two on each side at the bottom do not attach in front – they are called floating ribs. Each rib is connected to a vertebra or joint in the back; these connections are all stabilized by muscles and ligaments. You also have a nerve between each rib. A subluxation can cause pressure or irritation on any of these structures.

Causes of Subluxations

Rib subluxations can occur even with coughing, sneezing or sleeping in the wrong position. Any motion that pulls the arm behind the body in a sudden jerking motion can cause a rib subluxation. Weightlifting can cause a subluxation if the weight is too heavy or if you breathe improperly during lifting, according to Dr. Steven Estner, a chiropractor in Rhode Island. Tackle football, wrestling and even an improper turn in a dance can also cause a rib to subluxate.

Back Squats

Back squats are used to build the gluteal muscles in the buttocks, the quadriceps muscles of the thighs, the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs and the muscles of the low back. To perform a back squat, you must lift a heavy metal bar by holding it behind your head across your upper shoulders. Although a low back injury is the most common injury from back squats, other injuries such as rib subluxations can occur.

Treatment

Chiropractic treatment is one strategy to help a subluxated rib. The chiropractor uses a drop table and a hand-held tool such as an activator or another form of lever to pop the rib back into position. Preventing a rib subluxation is usually a matter of keeping your back muscles strong and using good posture; forward head posture increases the risk of rib subluxations, according to Dr. Estner. If you think you have sustained a rib subluxation, consult a health care professional.

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