Rib Contusion

ExitCare ImageA rib contusion (bruise) can occur by a blow to the chest or by a fall against a hard object. Usually these will be much better in a couple weeks. If X-rays were taken today and there are no broken bones (fractures), the diagnosis of bruising is made. However, broken ribs may not show up for several days, or may be discovered later on a routine X-ray when signs of healing show up. If this happens to you, it does not mean that something was missed on the X-ray, but simply that it did not show up on the first X-rays. Earlier diagnosis will not usually change the treatment.


  • Avoid strenuous activity. Be careful during activities and avoid bumping the injured ribs. Activities that pull on the injured ribs and cause pain should be avoided, if possible.

  • For the first day or two, an ice pack used every 20 minutes while awake may be helpful. Put ice in a plastic bag and put a towel between the bag and the skin.

  • Eat a normal, well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation.

  • Take deep breaths several times a day to keep lungs free of infection. Try to cough several times a day. Splint the injured area with a pillow while coughing to ease pain. Coughing can help prevent pneumonia.

  • Wear a rib belt or binder only if told to do so by your caregiver. If you are wearing a rib belt or binder, you must do the breathing exercises as directed by your caregiver. If not used properly, rib belts or binders restrict breathing which can lead to pneumonia.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.


  • You or your child has an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 100.5° F (38.1° C) or higher for more than 1 day.

  • You develop a cough, with thick or bloody sputum.


  • You have difficulty breathing.

  • You feel sick to your stomach (nausea), have vomiting or belly (abdominal) pain.

  • You have worsening pain, not controlled with medications, or there is a change in the location of the pain.

  • You develop sweating or radiation of the pain into the arms, jaw or shoulders, or become light headed or faint.

  • You or your child has an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C), not controlled by medicine.

  • Your or your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or higher.

  • Your baby is 3 months old or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.