What is a subluxated rib – rib out of alignment symptoms?

If you’re experiencing a dull and achy dull soreness or pain when touching the rib head area, then you most like are suffering from a subluxated rib head or rib head misalignment, symptomatically, this is more commonly referred to by many as rib out of place, note that this is different from having a dislocated rib.

In a more intense occasion, the patient will feel a sharp piercing pain in the chest, (some say that it will feel like you’re being stabbed from inside) or a pain originating from around the rib’s periphery (the endings)


This “rib out of place” feeling or Subluxated rib or (subluxed rib) is a very common (but usually less painful) rib injury which occurs when a rib or a set of ribs are partially out of place or, displaced or disconnected i.e. When a rib moves out of it’s primary position either from the sternum(breastbone) or from the spine.


Causes of subluxated ribs

Generally speaking, any exercise that involves the arm being pulled to the back of the body in a sudden jerking movement can pull a rib out of place thereby causing a subluxated rib.


Apart from stranous exercies, rib subluxation can also be caused by eith one of the following:

  • A cough and sneeze, the two major flu symptoms.
  • Sleeping in an improper position at night.
  • The lifting of heavy objects and weights.
  • Throwing, wrestling, contact and tackling ball games and other athletic movements may also result in subluxation of the ribs,
  • Pregnancy could even make some ribs to misalign from their positions due to the position of the unborn baby in the mother’s tummy – it’s quite common for pregnant mothers to complain of a rib pain during their last trimester, as the position and the size of the baby may sometimes force one or two ribs out of place!


Types of rib subluxation

The types of rib subluxation will depend on the location of the rib/ribs that were subluxated. From the anatomy of the human ribs, we learned that we have 12 ribs or both sides of the chest, and out of the 12 ribs 10 of them each has two connecting joints – i.e. on joining the sternum and the other spine at the back,

The 11th and 12th ribs are the only ribs with 1 joint area hence the reason they’re called “floating ribs”.


One can experience a displaced rib on any of the 12 ribs, but the most common include floating rib subluxation and first rib subluxation – yes, the 1st rib, like any other joints found in the body can be subluxated too. Misaligned rib head can also be called a type of rib subluxation since not all subluxation incidents involve rib head out of place.


To recap, here are the types of a subluxed rib



Picture of the first rib

  • First rib subluxation
  • Rib head subluxation
  • Floating rib subluxation





Symptoms of a subluxated rib – rib out of alignment symptoms

The major subluxated rib symptoms is pain, in all forms of it – short, long, sharp, dull, stabbing. Most people with subluxated rib symptom usually reports pain during breathing, pain under the chest, chest pain and the classic rib subluxation symptom such as pain while lying in bed etc.

If any of the nerves around the subluxed rib was compressed at the time of the injury, then tingling sensation and numbness might be experienced. Another rib subluxation symptom which a higher percentage of people report is muscle spasms.

In the case whereby the first rib is subluxated or subluxated first rib, symptoms may include neck pain, shoulder pain, arm pain and numbness, headaches, and chest pain.

Pain under left side is also a good indicator of the presence of an out of place rib, this left-sided chest pain would feel as if the patient is experiencing a heart attack due to the piercing stabbing nature of the pain.


Subluxated rib treatment

The ONLY treatment which a patient with a “rib out of alignment symptom” need is rest, rest and more rest… unless on more serious cases which would require immediate surgery.

Depending on of the severity of the displaced or misaligned rib, certain treatment methods are used, a trip to a physiotherapist is probably the first thing that should come to your mind if you’re experiencing a rib out of place symptom.

Most if not all displaced ribs can be easily adjusted back in place by your doctor or chiropractor, 2 visits to your chiropractor may be all it will take to get that out of place rib back in place. Your physiotherapist or doctor will only work to reduce and manage rib pain and muscle spasm by applying ice (or ice-hot compresses) directly to the area and prescribing pain medications.


This pain reduction method may include several physiotherapy and electrotherapy modalities, such as laser, ultrasound, ice, heat, mobilizations, soft tissue therapy etc. your doctor might also prescribe some rib treatment exercises like breathing, strengthening and stretching exercises.


Your doctor may also apply direct pressure to the rib which was out of place, or may use adjusting instruments / techniques in order to move the rib(s) back in its original place.

To reduce the sore ribs, ice creams or (not the ice cream you eat) ice gels may be used.


Taking care of rib out of place at home

As you have a rib out of alignment, all you can do at home is to reduce movement around the affected ribs by changing your usual daily activities, have as much rest as you possibly can, take some supplementary vitamins whose special job is to help heal disc cartilages and bones. While resting, it’s advisable to sleep on a supportive mattress.








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