picture of the human ribs - dislocated ribs

What is a Dislocated Rib? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Rib Dislocation?

Why do my ribs hurt so badly?

Dislocated rib can be caused by several factors ranging from a simple cough to severe occasions when the rib cage or general chest area comes in contact with an intense blunt force, twist or sudden movement. Rib dislocations are not rare albeit to the perception of the general public. Other than dislocating a rib, one can experience other rib injuries such as rib separation, or a rib dysfunction, this happens when the rib head and adjoining bones get separated from the sternum or spinal cord. These rib injuries can happen to anyone whether young, old, babies and even pregnant women!

Pain under the rib cage is one of the classical symptoms of any rib injury! depending on which part of the ribcage was affected, you may experience pain radiating under the left or under right rib, it’s best to get it checked out by a certified doctor in order to rule out a possible rib injury.

What are The Causes of Dislocated Ribs

As the chest cavity is a larger part of the body, it is in a forefront position and is prone to injuries. During these situations, when a person gets injured, ribs are first on the “strike” and these are situations when dislocations and fractures can happen. Younger persons don’t suffer from broken, fractured or dislocated ribs in the back or front as much as older persons because younger ribs are more elastic, while due to a lack of cartilage and the presence of senior osteoporosis, elderly’s ribs are much more prone to fractures.

some of the causes of rib dislocation may include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Lifting heavy weight at home or at the gym
  • Blunt force trauma to the chest wall
  • automobile accidents – car, bike, etc.
  • Old age
  • costochondritis

Since the medium part of the chest is the most forward positioned, fractured ribs, such as a displaced rib fracture, happen more often to medium ribs, and least in the case of the upper three ribs that are in a way “hidden” behind the collar bone. Localization of the fracture is most common on the frontal and back curve and caused either by direct or indirect force. When it comes to dislocation, lower ribs are most prone to such situations, and also either due to direct or indirect force.

Rib injuries usually happen due to a direct injury, which is common in sports such as rugby, football, hockey, skiing, etc. Rib injuries are also common in traffic accidents and due to a fall from height.

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Dislocated rib Symptoms

If you experience any one or more of the following dislocated rib symptoms, this should help you especially if you’re wondering what a dislocated rib feels like. Mind you, you need to see your doctor right away if you feel like you have dislocated a rib, as some rib dislocation could cause rupture of blood vessels or internal organs around in the rib cage – PLEASE DO NO IGNORE THESE SYMPTOMS

Patients with a dislocated rib injury can experience the following symptoms:

  • Strong, stabbing pain in the chest with every movement of the rib cage area: Patients with a rib injury usually experience strong, stabbing pain in the chest, first in the moment of injury and then for a longer period afterward. In the case of smaller injuries, rib pain can be minimal, enabling further activities. In more serious injuries, the patient can experience strong, paralyzing pain in the rib cage and disability to continue with any injuries.
  • Strong pain will be experienced during injury and later will change into throbbing pain that can turn into intensive stabbing pain if the patient tries to move too much

Patients usually experience more intense pain in the morning and in the evening. The Rib pain is more intensive if the patient lies on the side that is injured.

  • The patient will experience difficulty to inhale deeper as this causes instant sharp pain: The patient can be unable to take deep breaths as this causes instant sharp pain, deep breaths are usually associated with intense and sharp rib pain.
  • The patient will also experience pain during coughing, sneezing or more intensive chest movement, such as bending over, lifting weights, pushing or pulling.
  • Pain is experienced during coughing, sneezing or more intensive chest movement, such as bending over, lifting weight, pushing or pulling

Tip: if you have just displaced a rib, it’s important to apply a direct ICE on the affected area to reduce pain discomfort and swelling(swelling is usually a symptom of broken ribs according to Healthline.com.

How do you treat a displaced/dislocated rib?

Dislocated rib which is also referred as “displaced rib” and general rib injuries like rib subluxation, dislocation and out of place rib head mostly have no special treatment (unless it’s a severe case of rib injury), minor rib injuries like dislocated floating rib or rib head subluxation can heal on its own with any doctor’s intervention.

2 Quickest ways for fix a subluxated or rib dislocation

  • The first and foremost first aid would be to use a hot and cold compress –  firstly apply a hot compress (not too hot) on the affected area, keep for about 20 – 30mins, then remove it, then apply a pack of ice, or pea, or frozen meat (basically any frozen item would do) directly on the place where there was a popped rib, this helps reduce the pain and swelling.
  • The reason for a hot/cold compress is because a hot compress increases the blood flow, while cold compress constricts blood flow, therefore the absence of a cold compress afterward would cause more inflammation.
  • Additionally, use a rib brace to “hold” your ribs in place, to avoid further damage or excessive movement of the injured ribs. You can find a review of the best rib braces for dislocated ribs here

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Your doctor may prescribe some pain killers such as acetaminophen, and prep your up for surgery if the dislocation was severe. if the dislocated isn’t too bad, then you’d be administered some general anesthesia before you have your ribs pushed back in place, back to where it was displaced from.

Also, get a bottle or two of a stool softener, depending on the severity of your injury, you’ll have a reduce movement because every you try to make would be extremely painful.

Also, get a bottle or two of a stool softener, depending on the severity of your injury, you’ll have a reduce movement because every you try to make would be extremely painful.

Ps: As an amazon associate, I may earn an affiliate commission when you make a purchase via the links on the site. (This doesn’t affect the price)

  • But in a case where there’s not dislocation but subluxation, your doctor may or may not further intervene as most subluxed rib occurrences can correct itself and go back in place with time.

  • Once the rib bone has been pushed back to its original position, your doctor will put a bandage (called a rib brace or wrap/chest support belt) around your chest in order to hold the already aligned rib bone in place.

Visit this page to check out our list of the best 3 rib braces on Amazon

More serious injuries like fracture and rib head out of place most like would need some basic therapy measures like:

  • surgery
  • pain minimization by the use of pain medications
  • rest
  • cough suppression – to reduce/avoid the possibility of ribs getting dislocated after treatment
  • preventing secondary lung infection
  • symptomatic measures
  • prevention of bleeding
  • recovery from rib dislocated, i.e. relocation of the rib to its proper place