Do you think you may have sustained an injury to your ribcage? While rib injuries aren’t common, they can be serious – especially if left untreated.
Though you may take it for granted, your ribcage serves an extremely important function.
So if you suspect it’s been injured, rather than waiting for it to heal, it’s crucial you seek professional help.
The Structure of Your Ribcage
The entire region of your chest is referred to as the thorax. It contains several important organs, including your heart and lungs.
Your ribcage, first and foremost, serves to protect these organs.
There are 12 ribs that comprise your ribcage. They are subdivided into three different types.
The first seven ribs attach to the sternum – also referred to as your breastbone.
There are three ribs beneath those that attach to the cartilage of the ribs above them rather than the sternum. These are referred to as “false” ribs.
The two ribs lowest on the ribcage are attached to neither the sternum nor to other ribs. Their point of attachment is at the back of the chest or the girdle. These are referred to as “floating” ribs.
Any injury to the ribs can affect the sternum as well as the organs they protect. But it can also impact the spine and organs in the adjacent abdominal cavity.
Injuries to the Rib Cage
In many cases, a simple broken rib usually means that you’ve sustained a hairline fracture. These will typically heal on their own.
It’s important to know if you’re dealing with a more complex or serious fracture though.
In these cases, the edges of the broken bone can be pushed out of place and potentially damage the nearby internal organs, blood vessels or nerves.
If there is a sharp end of a displaced broken rib, it could puncture the lung.
When there is a rib popped out of place – also known as a dislocated rib – it is crucial you get professional help.
And if there are three more ribs broken in more than two places, this is known as flail chest and requires immediate medical attention.
Causes of Rib Injuries
Any number of events can cause injury to the rib cage. It’s typically the result of your chest being directly hit.
One of the most common causes used to be car accidents. Airbags have reduced the number of people slamming their chests against the steering wheel though.
Sports-related injuries are another main cause. Particularly in the case of contact sports.
If you have a job that requires you to work with heavy objects or puts you at risk for falling, you’re more likely to sustain a rib injury.
Finally, assault is another common cause of ribcage injuries.
Symptoms of Rib Injuries
There are several telltale signs that you’ve suffered an injury to your rib cage:
- Any pain – whether moving or still
- Grinding or crunching sounds at the injury site
- Unusual or misformed appearance of the ribcage
- Difficulty breathing
Keep in mind, however, that you may not experience symptoms at first. So it’s wise to seek medical attention regardless.
Stay on Top of Your Health
Rib injuries can lead to serious complications. So don’t hesitate to have that injury checked.
And for more great articles on staying healthy and fit, keep checking back with us.