How to Tell If You Have a Cracked or Broken Rib

X-Ray of a Broken Rib

If you have ever experienced a broken or cracked rib, you know just how painful the experience can be. But in some cases following a blow to the ribcage, it may be hard to tell if your pain is symptomatic of a break or crack, or something less serious. Read on to learn the symptoms, causes, treatments and when you should seek medical attention for a broken or cracked rib.

How to Tell if you Have a Cracked Rib? | Symptoms of a Broken or Cracked Ribs


The pain you feel with a broken rib typically occurs or even worsens when you:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Press on the injured area.
  • Bend or twist your body.


Broken ribs are most commonly caused by direct impacts, which may include motor vehicle accidents, falls, child abuse or contact sports. Ribs can also be fractured by repetitive trauma from sports, such as golf and rowing or even severe and prolonged coughing.

When Should I See A Doctor?

If you have a very tender spot in your rib after you’ve experienced a trauma, or if you have difficulty breathing, consult your doctor.

Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY, if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Feel pressure or a squeezing pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Pain that extends beyond your chest and moves to your shoulder or arm

Recovering From a Cracked or Broken Rib at Home

In most cases, you can take care of broken or bruised ribs at home. However, here are some tips for pain relief while you are healing:

  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. Follow the appropriate dosage directions and consult with your doctor.
  • Hold an ice pack against your chest for the first few days to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Rest as much as you need. Take time off work or rest from physical activities.
  • If it hurts to cough, hold a pillow against your chest to ease the pain.
  • Try breathing exercises every hour.

Call Alexander Orthopaedic Associates for an Appointment Today!

If you or someone you know is experiencing chest pain after an accident, call us at Alexander Orthopaedics. We are passionate about restoring your quality of life. Contact us today to make an appointment.