Rib Fracture

ExitCare ImageA rib fracture is a break or crack in one of the bones of the ribs. The ribs are like a cage that goes around your upper chest. A broken or cracked rib is often painful, but most do not cause other problems. Most rib fractures heal on their own in 1–3 months.


  • Avoid activities that cause pain to the injured area. Protect your injured area.

  • Slowly increase activity as told by your doctor.

  • Take medicine as told by your doctor.

  • Put ice on the injured area for the first 1–2 days after you have been treated or as told by your doctor.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15–20 minutes at a time, every 2 hours while you are awake.

  • Do deep breathing as told by your doctor. You may be told to:

  • Take deep breaths many times a day.

  • Cough many times a day while hugging a pillow.

  • Use a device (incentive spirometer) to perform deep breathing many times a day.

  • Drink enough fluids to keep your pee (urine) clear or pale yellow.  

  • Do not wear a rib belt or binder. These do not allow you to breathe deeply.


  • You have a fever.

  • You have trouble breathing.  

  • You cannot stop coughing.

  • You cough up thick or bloody spit (mucus).  

  • You feel sick to your stomach (nauseous), throw up (vomit), or have belly (abdominal) pain.  

  • Your pain gets worse and medicine does not help.  


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

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