BodyQuirks Parts is Parts Series: Ribs



Moving right along in our parts is parts series we will now tackle the ribs. Actually, come to think of it, “tackled”, as anyone who’s ever sustained a dislocated rib knows, is just the right word to describe how a person feels when this vital part of the body’s skeletal structure gets thrown out of whack—like someone has knocked the wind out of them.

In the last two weeks we’ve had five clients with ribs that have popped out of their socket, making it very painful to move and to breathe. There are many reasons for ribs to pop out, most of them having to do with poor body mechanics that in turn lead to weak ligaments.


How do I know if I have a rib out?

One of the most common symptoms that a rib has popped out of joint is a sharp pain in the rib cage, usually in the middle of the back, accompanied by pain when taking a deep breath. Although falls, sports injuries, and car accidents can all cause a dislocated rib, unfortunately it can also be triggered by much less. Reaching for things in awkward ways, lying in bed on the same side for long periods of time, or lifting things that are too heavy and awkward in shape can all contribute to ribs popping out.

We can tell you from personal experience that it’s not fun to be unable to take a deep breath without excruciating pain. I once popped a rib out just by reaching behind me, from the front seat of our car to the back seat, for a heavy book. I applied a lot of pressure to the spine right where the ribs attach and viola, a popped rib. Luckily, I was on my way to the chiropractor when it happened and she was able to get it back in right away—not the case for most people.

Bonus Tips: Sometimes you can lie on a racquetball ball to help pop a rib back in. Similarly, using the edge of a table to apply pressure on the rib can also shift it nicely back into place.


Massage and dislocated ribs

Tara has had a lot of experience putting ribs back in during her time as a massage therapist. She’s even developed a massage tool to assist in realigning the rib to ease it back in—she calls it RibIt®.

So if you need to have a rib put back in, and you’d like to avoid a visit to a chiropractor, massage is a great alternative. However, if you’ve just received the injury and you’re unable to get it to go back into place on your own, it’s important not to wait too long to seek professional attention because once the ligaments get overstretched the condition can become chronic. Until you can get in to see someone, allow the injured area to rest and use ice to reduce inflammation.

Keep in mind, it’s not unusual for some residual pain to remain for several days after the rib is relocated—ligaments don’t like to be overstretched since they have less circulation than muscles.

If you have a rib out, or one threatening to come out, and you’d like us to get it back in, contact us to schedule a massage. If possible, have someone drive you to the appointment, as your range of motion may be too impaired by your dislocated rib to safely operate a vehicle.

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