Rib Fracture

Your caregiver has diagnosed you as having a rib fracture (a break). This can occur by a blow to the chest, by a fall against a hard object, or by violent coughing or sneezing. There may be one or many breaks. Rib fractures may heal on their own within 3 to 8 weeks. The longer healing period is usually associated with a continued cough or other aggravating activities.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Avoid strenuous activity. Be careful during activities and avoid bumping the injured rib. Activities that cause pain pull on the fracture site(s) and are best avoided if possible.

  • 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, splinting the injured area with a pillow. This will help prevent pneumonia.

  • Do not wear a rib belt or binder. These 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.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

You develop a continual cough, associated with thick or bloody sputum.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

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

  • You have worsening pain, not controlled with medications.