How should you sleep with bruised ribs? Check out these 3 tips!

Bruised ribs, as scary as it may sound is a common rib injury that any active individual might experience at any point in their life. Rib injuries such as dislocations, fractures, and rib bruises usually heal on their own within a few weeks. Some take a little longer, as long you observe proper treatment and care. Good pain medication is vital so that you can breathe and cough comfortably while the wound heals. Many people ask, “How should you sleep with bruised ribs?” This article will provide you with all the information you need.

How should you sleep with bruised ribs

Bruised Ribs and Chest Anatomy

Before answering the question, “how should you sleep with bruised ribs?” it’s important to know what bruised ribs are. That will be impossible unless one understands a bit about the anatomy of the human ribs.

Anatomy of the human rib

The chest, also known medically as the thorax, contains several vital anatomical structures and organs. The ribcage protects vital organs such as the lungs and heart. Organs in the thoracic cavity, organs in the adjacent abdominal cavity, and the spine are also susceptible to injury from trauma to the chest.

There are 12 ribs on each side of the thoracic cavity divided into three different types. The first seven ribs are attached to a bone in the front of the chest, called the sternum or sternum. Three ribs (numbered 8-10) are called “false ribs” because they are attached to the cartilage (not bone) of the rib cage above them. The medical community refers to Ribs 11 and 12 as “floating ribs.” This is because they do not attach to the sternum or other ribs. Instead, their attachment point is only at the back of the chest or girdle. Head over there for the full article on the human rib cage anatomy

What are bruised ribs?

Rib bruising or rib contusions can occur after a direct impact on the torso. This can be due to a direct impact from a fall or hard objects, sports like golf, or go-karting, but the most common cause is a car accident. 

Chest pain and difficulty breathing are the two prominent symptoms of bruised ribs. A medical practitioner should evaluate the injury to ensure it is not a more severe condition. Therefore, it becomes imperative to know how you should sleep with bruised ribs.

One of the most important things to know about bruised ribs is that the symptoms usually affect the structures surrounding the ribs. These include vital organs, intercostal muscles, and cartilages, not necessarily the ribs themselves. Regardless of whether the ribs are subluxated, broken, or bruising has taken place in the area, the damage has occurred to the rib area, disrupting the ability to breathe easily.

Symptoms of bruised ribs

The most obvious symptom of a bruised or bruised rib is sudden pain on impact. A direct blow to the chest or the rib cage itself may cause it to bruise, break or separate from the sternum. Bruising may occur over the next few hours, and the ribs are likely to be painful to the touch. Coughing or sneezing may also be painful.

Although bruised ribs are very painful, in most cases, they will heal completely. The injury is called a rib bruise, but as mentioned earlier, most of the pain is caused by damage to the surrounding muscles and cartilage of the rib cage.

Symptoms include pressure and pain at the site of the injury. You may also feel pain when breathing or trying to move, laugh or sneeze.

So, How do I sleep with swollen ribs? – Read on to learn more

Treatment of bruised ribs

Rib injuries can be challenging to treat. We advise seeking medical examination to rule out rib fractures, rib dislocations, and complications, such as a pneumothorax or collapsed lung. Rest and reduced activity or restriction are the main treatment options for bruised ribs. While at home, Ice applications may help relieve some of your pain and swelling.

Because bruised ribs cause pain when you breathe in, causing you to take more shallow breaths, your doctor may prescribe pain medication to help control it. Anesthetic or painkiller injections near the bruised area may also help temporarily stop your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.

How should you sleep with bruised ribs?

You can manage the pain and discomfort caused by a rib injury. However, a person may need to make some temporary adjustments or even take time off work during the first few days after the injury.

To be able to sleep more comfortably, we advise the following.

Propping up your body in an upright position

  • Some people notice an increase in pain and pressure at night when they try to sleep in bed. In these cases, it may be helpful to avoid lying completely flat on the bed. Try sleeping sitting in a chair or an elevated bed to reduce pain. An upright position also helps with breathing. 
  • Try to sleep in a comfortable semi-erect position, especially for the first few nights after your bruise rib injury. You can do this by placing pillows under your neck and upper back. Many people with bruised ribs have acclaimed that this is one of the least painful ways how they sleep with bruised ribs. This position will help you breathe less painfully and more comfortably.
  • Because coughing is involuntary and can never be really predicted, We advised keeping an extra pillow next to you at all times. Some people find that placing a pillow against their chest helps absorb sudden movements and stabilizes the torso when coughing.

Breathing normally

The pain of a rib injury may cause a person to breathe more shallowly and avoid coughing. However, breathing normally and coughing when needed are important to prevent complications. Breathing exercises throughout the day are also helpful.

Avoid Smoking

Reducing or stopping smoking will benefit the healing process after a rib injury, especially if breathing is affected.

Breathing exercises

Pain while breathing can cause you to avoid deep breaths while taking only shallow ones. A prolonged period of shallow breaths during rib injuries will put you at a higher risk for secondary complications such as pneumonia. To help prevent problems, you need to take a few deep breaths consciously.

Medical practitioners recommend Taking slow, deep breaths and gentle coughing gently every 2 hours. This will aid in clearing mucus from your lungs and prevent some of your lungs from collapsing. Your provider, on some occasions, may provide you with a special device (spirometer) and have you blow into it. This will aid in deep breathing and, at the same time, measure the amount of air you intake with each breath.

Remember to take pain relievers when the pain gets too much.
Remember to take ten slow, deep breaths every hour.
Cough gently once every 2 hours.
Placing a pillow or blanket over your injured ribs can ease the pain of deep breathing.

Other points worth note

Do not stay on bed rest all day. This may cause fluid to build up in your lungs.

Start sleeping on the unaffected side after the first few days of injury. This will help with breathing.

Avoid strenuous activities such as weight lifting, pushing, pulling, straining, or exercises that cause pain.

Be careful when moving around to avoid bumping the injured area.

You may slowly begin normal daily activities as the pain decreases and the bruise heals (after talking to your health care provider).

When to call your doctor

You should immediately call your doctor if you have

  • Pain that prevents you from breathing deeply or coughing despite pain medication
  • Fever
  • Coughing or coughing up increased mucus
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • in case of adverse reactions from the pain medication, such as nausea, vomiting, or constipation, or allergic reactions, such as rashes, facial swelling, or difficulty when trying to breathe.

FAQS on How should you sleep with bruised ribs

Here are some other questions on how should you sleep with bruised ribs.

Can I sleep on my side with a bruised rib?

As alarming as it may sound, some doctors recommend sleeping on the injured side, Yes, on the injured side, in order to allow more room for your chest to expand and contract, thus easing breathing. This is especially recommended for patients who are at high risk of developing secondary complications such as pneumonia. Be sure to limit your movements during the first few days of your injury.

Why do bruised ribs hurt more lying down?

Lying flat on a flat surface makes the pain worse because the chest/ribcage are moving against the earth’s gravitational pull, and one must overcome it to rise in order to breathe deeply while sitting up straight eliminates gravity.

What is the best painkiller or pain reliever for bruised ribs?

Pain is a signature of rib injuries. To control your pain, start with some pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (same as Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (same as Aleve). After an hour of either medication, you can add a stronger pain reliever such as Tylenol #3 or Percocet if you still feel pain after taking a deep breath.

How do you tell if you have a bruised rib or pulled muscle?

Identifying Cues

Pain: You may feel severe pain when you are injured, or the pain may be more gradual. …

Pressure pain: The strained area between your ribs can be painful to the touch.

Difficulty breathing: Because breathing is so painful, you may find yourself taking small, shallow sips of air.

Is heat good for bruised ribs?

Apply cold to the injured area off and on for the first two days. Cold helps reduce pain and swelling. After two days, heat (tub soak or warm wet towels) to help the bruise heal more quickly.

What happens if you don’t treat a bruised rib?

If left untreated, fractured ribs can lead to serious short-term consequences, such as severe pain when breathing, pneumonia, and, in rare cases, death. 

Long-term consequences and complications include chest wall deformity, chronic pain, and decreased lung function.

Do you have any other tips on how should you sleep with bruised ribs? tell us via the comment section!


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