The rib cage is composed of the bone and cartilage which is connected to the front of the ribs and helps in expanding the chest when breathing and moving. When these areas become overstretched, it will result to tearing of the cartilage. A torn rib cartilage is also known as costochondral separation.
The diaphragm which is the main muscle that is used breathing is connected to the lower ribs and simple movements such as coughing, breathing or sneezing can result to a tear in the rib cartilage. Every day movements with twisting or expansion of the rib cage can cause pain. Holding a pillow placed against the chest can make this movement less painful.
- A common symptom is pain which happens at the area of the rib cartilage tear. Constant pain can be felt for a few weeks which will depend on the severity of the condition.
- Since the diaphragm is connected to the lower ribs, breathing, coughing or sneezing causes pain.
- Breathing becomes shallow than normal which is an attempt to lessen the pain by avoiding breathing deeply.
- Bruising of the affected area if tears were due to a forceful blow to the chest along with swelling of the area.
- A clicking, popping or grinding sound can be heard especially when taking a deep breath.
- Initially, encourage the individual to rest the chest to allow healing and avoid sharp and unnecessary movements for at least 6 weeks.
- Immediately after the tear, apply an ice pack to the affected area in order to help lessen inflammation and swelling for the first 24 hours after the injury. Wrap the ice pack using a towel and place on the affected area for 10 minutes every 2-3 hours. Avoid applying ice directly on the skin in order to prevent frostbite.
- Take the prescribed anti-inflammatory medication or analgesic in order to help in reducing the pain and inflammation.
- Apply a warm towel or heating pad for at least 10-15 minutes several times every day in order to lessen the discomfort and pain felt in the chest. It also helps with the proper circulation of blood in the area and for fast healing of the affected area.
- Seek the help of a physical therapist for some exercises and training on how to move and resume regular activities without making the condition worse.
- Wear a rib belt which is an elastic strap that is wrapped around the rib cage in order to help compress the rib cartilage so that it will not expand excessively especially when sneezing, breathing, coughing and laughing.
- Consume a glass of ginger tea every day for several months. Ginger contains compounds known as gingerols which helps lessen the pain and inflammation and for fast healing of the condition.