The difference between bruised, cracked and cracked ribs (2023)

Bruised, broken, and fractured ribs are all different injuries. "Broken" or "fractured" ribs mean that bones are involved in the injury. A "bruised" rib means that the supporting muscle and tissues around the ribcage have been damaged.

The ribcage protects theheartylungs.It is made up of 12 bones on each side of the chest. Any rib can be injured, but some ribs are more likely to break or bruise than others.

This article compares bruised, broken, and fractured ribs. He will cover the most common causes of rib injuries, as well as how broken and bruised ribs are diagnosed and treated.

The difference between bruised, cracked and cracked ribs (1)

Anatomy of your ribcage

Bruised ribs vs. Broken/Fractured

Most rib injuries occur when there is blunt trauma to the rib.chest wallsuch as a car accident or fall.

Chest trauma can also damage the sternum,coluna vertebraland abdominal organs.

There are different terms for rib injuries depending on the structures involved. Bones in the ribcage and sternum can be broken (fracture), and the muscles that support the ribcage may become strained (injured).

What happens when you hurt your chest?

bruised ribs

The term "bruised rib" is used when the rib cage bones are not actually injured. Pain from a bruised rib comes from stress or damage to:

  • soft fabrics
  • Cartilage
  • Chest wall muscles

It may not seem as serious as a cracked rib, but bruised ribs can be very painful.

External intercostals: anatomy, function and treatment

Broken or fractured ribs

The terms "broken rib" and "fractured rib" mean the same thing: a "fracture" or "break" is the same injury.

Rib fractures can be regular.broken bones(as from a fall) orstress fracturescaused by overuse (common in athletes).

(Video) How to heal Fractured or Bruised Ribs quickly? - Dr. Raghu K Hiremagalur

The sternum can also be fractured.The term "broken" rib is sometimes used to describe a broken rib or sternum.

Is a fracture the same as a broken bone?

Symptoms of Bruised or Broken Ribs

You may hear a "pop" or "crack" when the rib injury occurs. It may feel like something is "bursting" in your chest.

A rib injury can be extremely painful and more difficult to manage than other injuries. Unlike an arm or leg, your ribs cannot be placed in a cast or brace to prevent them from moving. In fact, they move every time you breathe.

These structures are also part of most normal body movements. The pain of a bruised or broken rib can make you want to sit still. However, not moving can make the injury worse or lead to complications from a broken rib (such as pneumonia).

The difference between bruised, cracked and cracked ribs (2)

Symptoms of bruised or broken ribs include:

  • Sharp pain (which may be worse when you twist your waist, move your arms or shoulders, breathe in, or cough)
  • sensitivity
  • Visible swelling or bruising in the chest

How to Tell if You've Broken a Rib

Symptoms of severe rib injuries

With severe rib injuries, your chest can look different, even misshapen. The unusual appearance could be a sign that you've broken more than one rib.

A significant injury to the ribs can lead to a condition called flail chest. When that happens, yourchest movement is the opposite of what it should bewhen you breathe (paradoxicalmovement).

In flail chest, at least three ribs are broken in two or more places. The condition is usually caused by severe trauma, such as a car accident. Flail chest is a medical emergency. If you see or experience it, seek immediate medical attention.

red flag symptoms

Rib injuries can cause life-threatening complications.There are "red flag" signs and symptoms to look out for, which mean you should seek medical attention right away, including:

  • severe pain that gets worse
  • Worse shortness of breath or shortness of breath
  • high fever
  • coughing up bloodor greenish-yellow mucus (phlegm)
  • A visibly deformed chest.
  • paradoxical movement

What is flaky chest?

(Video) Rib Pop vs. Broken Rib

Complications of rib fractures

Pneumonia is a common complication of broken ribs. It usually happens when the person avoids coughing because it hurts too much.

A 2017 study found that having one broken rib increased the risk of pneumonia by about 4%, and having two broken ribs increased it to more than 17%.

Other risk factors for pneumonia after a rib fracture are:

  • being a man
  • drink alcohol regularly
  • More use of IV (intravenous) fluid immediately after the injury
  • Be over 65 years old
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD)

Other complications from a broken massage include:

  • collapsed lung (pneumothorax) from a broken rib that punctured a lung
  • Damage to nearby organs causing bleeding into the chest cavity (hemot√≥rax)

Can you die from a broken rib?

Rib injuries themselves are usually not life threatening, but complications from a rib injury can be. If you have "red flag" symptoms, such as not being able to breathe or coughing up blood, you will need immediate medical attention.

What causes bleeding in the chest cavity?

Risk factors for broken ribs

You are more at risk of rib fractures if:

  • Have low bone density (osteoporosis)
  • They are prone to falls
  • is over 65 years old
  • Have COPD or a chronic cough
  • smoking cigarettes
  • Play contact sports or sports with repetitive upper body movements, such as rowing (stress fractures)

How to Reduce the Risk of Fractures If You Have Osteoporosis

How are bruised or broken ribs diagnosed?

Rib injuries can be diagnosed based on your symptoms and a physical exam. However, in some cases, your provider may want you to run additional tests.


Ebone scanocomputed tomography (CT)It may be needed if you have a rib injury because:

  • Your provider is unsure of the diagnosis
  • You are at high risk for complications.
  • Injury may worsen an existing medical condition
  • Trauma may have injured nearby organs.

How to Tell If You've Broken a Bone

Rib injuries in children

Young children actually have a lower risk of rib fractures because their rib cages are more flexible than adults.

That said, children with rib injuries often need more testing. Since children's rib cages are more flexible, it takes a lot to break a child's ribs. Trauma that is enough to break a rib is also more likely to damage organs.

What You Should Know About Broken Bones in Children

(Video) How to tell if a bone is fractured or bruised

How are cracked or bruised ribs treated?

Unlike an arm or leg, a broken rib cannot be put in a cast or cast. It's not easy to keep a broken rib at rest until it heals, because the entire ribcage moves when you breathe.

This means that the main treatment for rib injuries is time. Bruised or broken ribs usually take four to six weeks to heal. Some breaks may take longer to improve.

There are some things you mustnodo if you have a rib injury because they can increase the chance of complications.

If you have a bruised or broken rib, don't:

  • reduce your movement
  • Tie the trunk to prevent movement.
  • Avoid coughing or taking deep breaths

How to heal broken ribs

Pain management in bruised or broken rib

While you are recovering from a bruised or broken rib, the main goal of treatment is to manage pain and prevent complications.

In the first few days after the injury, you can use ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such asadvil(ibuprofen) orTylenol(acetaminophen), may also help. If you need stronger pain relievers, talk to your doctor.

It will help to rest a little more. Consider taking a few days off work or school to help with healing, especially if you have a physical job.

Other things that can help you recover from a bruised or broken rib include:

  • sitting upright: Rib pain can get worse when you lie down, which can make it difficult to sleep. Try sleeping standing up in a chair. This position will also make breathing a little easier.
  • cough into a pillow: To lessen the pain of coughing, hold a pillow against your chest to absorb the shock of sudden movement.
  • breathing normally: Pain from a rib injury can make you want to take shallow breaths. That said, breathing as normally as possible is the key to preventing pneumonia. Ask your doctor about breathing exercises that may help.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking delays bone healing. If you can reduce or stop using it, it will help your recovery and be beneficial to your long-term bone health.

How long do broken ribs take to heal?


Bruised, broken, and fractured ribs are not the same injury. A "bruised rib" does not involve the bones in the ribcage, whereas fractures (or breaks) do.

Your age, health and activities can put you at greater risk for a bruised or broken rib, but it can also happen if you have an accident.

A provider can usually easily diagnose a broken or bruised rib, but there isn't much that can be done regarding treatment. Pain management from a bruised or broken rib mostly involves ice packs, over-the-counter pain relievers, and finding comfortable positions to rest and sleep while it heals.

How does it feel when a broken bone is healing?

A Word from Verywell

Always seek medical attention for a severe blow to the ribs and chest. Rib injuries are usually not fatal on their own, but they can lead to serious complications.

While it might hurt to cough (or even breathe normally) when you have a broken or bruised rib, doing these things will help prevent complications like pneumonia.

(Video) Rib Pain Without a Fracture

If you have "red flag" symptoms such as shortness of breath or coughing up blood, you need immediate medical attention.

If you're worried that your rib pain isn't getting better or has started to get worse, call your doctor.

What to do if a broken bone won't heal

Common questions

  • Is heat good for bruised ribs?

    "Bruised" ribs actually involve the structures that support the rib cage, which includes the chest muscles.Heat can help relax tense muscles.and can be a relief for sprained or bruised ribs.

  • Are the ribs easy to break?

    The ribs are quite strong and flexible, but major trauma to the chest (such as a car accident) can easily break them.

    You might think that children are more likely to suffer rib fractures than adults because they are smaller, but this is not really the case. Children's ribs are very flexible and it takes a lot of force to break them.

  • Can you hurt a rib from exercise?

    Ribs can be injured by overuse, especially in people who do physical work and athletes. This usually happens if you are dealing with repetitive movements.

    (Video) How to Take Care of Bruised Ribs

Why Rowers and Dancers May Be Prone to Stress Fractures in the Ribs


1. Cracked & Broken Ribs: Symptoms, Treatment, & Recovery Time.
(Bob & Brad)
2. Basic First Aid : How to Assess a Rib Fracture
3. Cracked & Broken Ribs: Essential Precautions, At Home Treatment and Recovery Time. (Updated)
(Bob & Brad)
4. What are the Symptoms of a Bruised Rib
(Medical Symptoms TV)
5. What Are The Symptoms Of Torn Rib Cartilage?
(Wendy Westwood)
6. Medical Insight: Bruised, Sprained, or Broken? - Essentia Health
(Essentia Health)


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