Appointment (02) 4324 8081 Location & hours
Tips on improving your health

Fractured ribs

The 12 ribs on each side of the chest are an important part of the chest wall that protect underlying internal organs.

Rib fractures commonly occur in the middle ribs. Fracture of the first two ribs is rare as they are somewhat protected by the clavicle (collarbone), whilst the lowest two ribs are also rarely fractured because they do not insert into the sternum (breastbone) so they are able to move more freely.

Fractures usually occur from direct blows or from indirect crushing injuries. Rib fractures can be painful and may lead to severe injury inside the abdomen and chest.With any rib trauma, x-ray is suggested to rule out a fracture. Also a chest examination is recommended to be certain that there is no injury to the lungs as a result of the fracture.

Rib fractures may be sustained during sports or recreational activities or they may be the result of a motor vehicle accident or from a fall. However, ribs can be fractured by means other than direct trauma. Prolonged coughing, cancer, osteoporosis or weakened bones from bone infections can all lead to fractured ribs.

Stress fractures of the ribs may occur with overuse, usually related to repetitive movements in sports such as rowing or baseball pitching in which the muscles that insert into the ribs work excessively hard leading to the stress fracture.

The most common indicator of a fractured rib is sharp localised pain during breathing, especially with inspiration (breathing in). There may be a grating sound with breathing or movement of the fractured rib that causes the chest wall to flail. A flail chest is a potentially fatal condition in which a portion of the chest wall moves separately from the rest of the chest. The flail segment moves in while the rest of the chest moves out. If this occurs, immediate medical attention is necessary as it may lead to a pneumothorax (a punctured lung).

Pain from rib fractures can make any movement, especially changes in position such as getting out of bed, very difficult due to pain.Also, because breathing is painful, the person may try to suppress deep breathing or coughing, which can lead to a chest infection. Early mobilisation after a rib fracture is important to prevent infection, pneumonia, constipation and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Physiotherapy can help patients with fractured ribs in a number of ways:

  • Assist you to walk and show you the best ways to change positions, while heeding necessary precautions
  • Apply padding or strapping to stabilise and support the fracture site and ease pain
  • Provide pain relief in the form of ice, heat and ultrasound
  • Strengthening and/or flexibility exercises to help return to sport

If you have sustained a trauma to the ribs, come and see how we can help you.


Data and information is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended for any other commercial or non-commercial purposes. Neither we nor any of our data or content providers shall be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. By accessing our web site, a user agrees not to redistribute the information found therein. We provide customized links to select companies for your convenience only. We do not endorse or recommend the services of any company. The company you select is solely responsible for its services to you, the user. We shall not be liable for any damages or costs of any type arising out of or in any way connected with your use of our services. Plainly, we provide this content for your information only. You should not rely on any clinical information to diagnose or self manage a condition as that information may not apply to your particular problem. The information available through this or other content providers should not be substituted for professional clinical examination. Other content providers or linked sites may provide information or opinions which may differ from our own. We do not have any control over that information. We provide these links for your interest only and do not necessarily agree with that information.

Make an appointment

Put an end to unnecessary pain.



Call our friendly staff now.

(02) 4324 8081

Get free news

Sign up now. No spam.