Medical Q&As

Rib injury - have I broken a rib?

I think I have bruised or cracked a rib. The right hand side of my rib cage is very sore, worse when I inhale and very sore when lying down. It seems to be getting worse. Could it be anything more? I fell when playing football four days ago. I'm a forty one year old male.

I think that your suspicions are correct. This sounds like a rib injury and it may be cracked as you have suggested or it may be bruised. Both conditions can be equally painful and the pain can be exacerbated by coughing, sneezing, laughing, taking a deep breath or any form of exertion that involves movement of the muscles attached to the injured portion of the chest wall. It can take several weeks for the pain to subside even if the ribs are not broken. It is no longer recommended that the chest wall be bandaged since that action might restrict movement of the chest wall. This could lead to infection or collapse of a portion of the underlying lung. It is common practice for doctors to prescribe a painkiller for a couple of weeks to relieve the discomfort but also to ensure that you can take a deep breath and cough without being doubled up in agony. You should visit your GP and have the diagnosis confirmed.