What Do Bruised Ribs Feel Like?

Medically Reviewed on 10/27/2022
Bruised Ribs
Injuries to the rib cage bruise the rib cartilage, causing blood to accumulate around the fibrous tissues between the rib bones.

Bruised ribs hurt when you inhale. According to the National Health Service, you can have trouble breathing deeply if you have bruised ribs.

  • An injured person will often experience some discomfort, edema, or inflammation in the vicinity of the injured rib cage.
  • An uncomfortable or painful sensation accompanies broken, cracked, bruised, or fractured ribs.
  • You may experience some pain or discomfort when pushing your sternum or breastbone.

Although bruises may indicate artificial damage to blood vessels, they may also be a sign of more serious, deeper injuries such as broken or shattered ribs.

Visit your doctor for a checkup if you think you may have a rib injury.

What is a bruised rib?

A rib contusion, also known as a bruised rib, can occur due to a fall or blow to the chest area, forceful coughing, contusions in the rib cage region, and vigorous activity. Small blood vessels rupture and leak their contents into the skin's soft tissue, resulting in a bruise. This causes discoloration of the skin.

Occasionally, injuries to the rib region bruise the rib cartilage, which causes blood to accumulate in or near the fibrous tissues between the rib bones. Bruised rib cartilage may or may not leave a noticeable bulge or skin discoloration patch.

What are the symptoms of bruised ribs?

The most common symptoms of bruised ribs include:

  • Severe chest pain, especially when you breathe in
  • Swelling or tenderness around the afflicted ribs
  • Skin bruises (bluish or purplish skin patch anywhere over the rib cage)

If the rib is broken, you may feel or hear a crack

Any rib cage injury may present the following symptoms:

Such symptoms might not appear in the case of just bruising unless additional, more serious injuries exist.

How to treat bruised ribs

Treatment of bruises is required only if you experience pain or discomfort. Although a bruise typically mends by itself, resting is advised to reduce stress and disruption in broken blood vessels. Additionally, it will cease bleeding and clotting.

You can hasten the healing process with a few natural and DIY cures, which are as follows:

  • You may use over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain. Ibuprofen shouldn't be taken for 48 hours after an injury because it could delay healing. Before using these medications, speak with your healthcare practitioner if you have chronic liver or kidney illness or if you've ever experienced a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • In the first few days, use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel on the affected ribs to reduce swelling.
  • If necessary, rest and take time off from work.
  • Place a pillow against your chest if you need to cough.
  • To improve your breathing and help you eliminate mucus from your lungs, move around and occasionally move your shoulders.
  • For the first few nights, attempt to sleep more upright.


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What causes bruised ribs?

Bruises are more common in athletes. Pressure and blows to the chest and thoracic area are the culprits for bruised ribs. Bruising is one of the most frequent and important injuries in contact sports such as football and rugby. Accidents can also cause rib and breast bruises.

Here are some other, more frequent causes of rib bruising:

  • Coughing: Allergens and irritants can lead to a severe cough. The contractions in the chest that result from frequent coughing might harm your ribs. The strong coughing associated with pleurisy and other illnesses is known to put the ribs at risk of damage. According to Dr. Bernad Seif, a clinical psychologist on Health Tap, the intercostal muscles between the ribs can be damaged by coughing vigorously, which can also lead to broken ribs.
  • Sports and exercise: Boxing, American football, running, bench press, jiujitsu, golf (golf swing), rowing, volleyball, mountain biking, karting, kiteboarding, and weight lifting are sports and exercises that are known to result in rib injuries and bruising. Try to cut back on these sports if you frequently bruise without cause.
  • Pregnancy: Most pregnant women experience persistent rib pain during the third trimester of their pregnancies. The baby may have hurt itself by kicking close to and around the rib cage. You will likely get contusions if the kicks are powerful and you have weak bones. The need to breathe heavily to fulfill the body's increased oxygen demand as the fetus grows is another factor that contributes to rib bruises during pregnancy. Ribs may flare up and hurt if you breathe too forcefully.
  • Fall and accidents: Bruises from falls frequently affect athletes and pregnant women. The most frequent sort of fall that results in rib cage injuries is one in which there is a hard object between your rib cage and the ground.
  • Sneezing and vomiting: Like coughing, sneezing, and prolonged vomiting can bruise ribs. This is characterized by rib pain accompanied by both vomiting and sneezing, which can increase the pressure in the chest region. Bruising can occur when this pressure is kept up repeatedly, especially in those who are constantly nauseous.
  • Underwire bra: Rib-related bruises can result from wearing underwire bras. Although bras shape and support the breasts, some women claim that they have a few undesirable side effects such as squeezing, burrowing into the breast tissue, and stopping the flow of blood through the torso. If you feel pain after wearing an underwire bra, your skin may have become inflamed, resulting in a bruised rib.
Medically Reviewed on 10/27/2022
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