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Rib: Contusion Vs Minor Fracture

A rib contusion is a bruise to one or more rib bones. It may cause pain, tenderness, swelling, and a purplish discoloration. There may be a sharp pain with each breath. A rib contusion takes from a few days to a few weeks to heal. A rib fracture (bone break) may cause the same symptoms as a rib contusion. The small crack may not be seen on a regular chest x-ray.

Treatment for both conditions is the same and is described below.

Home Care:

Medications: You may be given medication for pain. Take this and all medication as directed.

General Care

  • Do not do any heavy lifting or strenuous exertion, or any activity that causes pain.

  • Use a cold pack (such as ice cubes in a plastic bag or a bag of frozen peas) wrapped in a thin towel. Apply to the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Continue applying 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days, then as needed for the relief of pain and swelling.

  • The first 3 to 4 weeks of healing will be the most painful. If your pain is not controlled by the treatment given, contact your doctor. Sometimes a stronger pain medicine may be needed. A nerve block (numbing the nerve between the ribs) can be performed in case of severe pain.

Follow Up

with your doctor as directed.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting

  • New or worsening pain

  • Abdominal (stomach) pain


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