Fractured Ribs in Happy Valley

Rib fractures are surprisingly common. Most are the result of a blunt force trauma such as: a car accident, falling, or a significant impact in sports. Occasionally in our elderly demographic, bouts of intense coughing can lead to a fracture.

Our ribs function as a protective cage that surrounds most of our internal organs. Despite the common discomforts of coughing, sneezing, laughing, or deep breathing; the vast majority of rib fractures heal normally and do not require surgery. An upper rib fracture or collar bone fracture can become dangerous if a jagged end protrudes inward as it could puncture lungs or blood vessels. Always consult with a primary care provider if you suspect you may have a fractured rib.

The primary complaint, hands down, is pain with breathing. This can lead to taking short or shallow breaths which is not efficient for oxygen and CO2 exchange. Continued shallow breathing can also result in secondary complications such as: dizziness, light headed, passing out, or infections. Sometimes bracing of the injured area for additional support can allow for deeper breathing without symptoms.

The next most common complaints include: coughing, bending, and twisting. Providing support to the injured region is critical in restoring normal movement patterns without pain. Your physical therapist will assist you in identifying the best strategy for you.

Normal breathing should not produce noise. If your breathing begins to elicit sounds, you should contact your primary care provider for consult.

Physical Therapy Treatment of Broken Ribs

Early Intervention Strategies:

Rest and strain reduction in the region of the rib is crucial early on. If too much stress is loaded on the fractured rib it can result in a secondary fracture or even a non-union – where the bones don’t fully fuse back together and a “false joint” can occur. Either of those scenarios is quite problematic and difficult to manage.

Late Intervention Strategies:

You will enter this phase once your physician has identified clear healing of the bones. Resumption of normal activities occurs per tolerance with a gradual rate. Strength and mobility become the prime goals. Indirect stress through strengthening supportive structures in the shoulder and across the torso assist in progressive loading.

Tissue mobilizations around the region of the fracture is also important during this time to break up any scar tissue or excessive connective tissues that may have accumulated. If tissues become stuck with connective tissue it can create localized discomfort. Your layers of tissue – skin, fat, fascia, muscle, etc. – should all move freely. With adhesions, it is similar to a toothpick in a club sandwich, the areas around the toothpick can move somewhat, but as you get closer the tissues become increasingly more restricted. This can be commonly observed if you have an old scar and tug around the edges and the skin on the opposite side doesn’t move, the tissues are stuck by the scar.

Bone fractures typically heal in 6-8 weeks, so be patient!

If you’ve had a rib fracture that has been interfering with your life, call us today to get started on a plan of care that works for you. Ascent Physical Therapy is conveniently located off Sunnyside Road in Happy Valley. We also love treating our neighboring communities of Damascus, Gresham, Clackamas, and Sandy at our top rated physical therapy clinic!