Difference between contusions, fractures and rib fractures


Rib injuries are common, but the terms used to describe them can be confusing. A rib can be described as bruised , broken, or broken. Although the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are similar, the conditions themselves may differ. While a rib injury alone may not be life threatening, in some cases there may be complications associated with a rib injury.

Rib injuries can happen to anyone with a chest injury, such as in a car accident. Older people with low bone density who are prone to falls may be more likely to sustain rib injuries.

Children have more flexible chests: bones can bend rather than break. However, young people who participate in weightlifting or competitive sports may be at higher risk for rib injuries.

Breast anatomy

The rib cage, also called the rib cage, contains several key anatomical structures and organs. The rib cage protects some of the most important organs, including the lungs and the heart. The rib cage consists of 12 ribs on each side, divided into three different types.

The first seven ribs are attached to a bone in the front of the chest called the sternum. or sternum The three ribs (numbers 8-10) are called " false" because they adhere to the cartilage (not the bone) of the ribs above them. The 11th and 12th ribs are known as " floating " ribs because they are not attached to the breastbone or other ribs. Rather , their point of attachment is only at the back of the rib cage of the vertebrae.

A chest wall injury can affect the ribs, sternum, or both.

Organs in the chest cavity, adjacent abdomen, and spinal column are also vulnerable to injury from chest trauma.

Bruised, broken or broken?

The chest wall can be damaged in many ways. Most of the time, these injuries are the result of blunt force trauma sustained during an event such as a car accident or a fall. These structures can be damaged when struck, doing their job of protecting vital organs like the heart and lungs.

Bruised ribs

The bones of the chest and sternum can break (fracture), and the chest muscles that support the rib cage can also be damaged, stretched, or bruised. The term "bruised rib" is sometimes used to describe an injury in which the ribs are injured but not broken. In this case, it is not the bones that are affected.

Pain from a bruised rib is actually due to stretching or damage to the tissues, cartilage, and muscles of the chest wall. Although the bruise is not as severe as a tear, trauma to the surrounding tissue can be quite painful.

The ribs can break like other bones in the body. Overuse can even lead to stress fractures , especially in athletes. However, unlike an arm or leg, a broken rib cannot be cast or cast. It's also not easy to keep a broken rib at rest until it heals – the entire rib cage moves as the lungs expand as the person breathes.


A 'broken' or 'broken' rib refers to the same injury that involves the bones of the chest, not just the surrounding supportive tissue, cartilage, and chest wall muscles (as in a bruised rib).

The sternum, which serves as the point of articulation for the ribs, can also be damaged. The term "cracked" rib is also sometimes used to describe a broken rib or sternum.

After an injury, such as a car accident, a person can injure both the bone structures and the supporting tissues of the chest wall. Both types of injuries individually present similar symptoms and can be treated with the same treatment.


Both bruises and broken ribs can be extremely painful. Also, unlike injuries that occur to other areas of the body, such as an arm or leg, which can more easily be wrapped, cast, or rested on crutches or a sling, as they heal, the chest wall and rib cage become move. every time a person breathes.

These structures are also involved during normal body movement, most of which begins in the torso. Injuries to the ribs and surrounding tissue often cause very painful movements and even breathing. However, these actions are not easy to avoid; in fact, trying to do so can make the condition worse or lead to complications.

Illustration by Cindy Chang, Get Drug Information

Symptoms of bruised or broken ribs include:

  • Sharp pain
  • Sensitivity
  • Visible swelling or bruising

This sharp pain can be exacerbated by twisting the torso, moving the shoulders or arms, inhaling, and coughing.

Occasionally, people report an audible "click" or "snap" when injured, which may indicate a broken bone. Some people also report a "pop" feeling.

If the injury is very severe or if several ribs have been broken, the person's chest may be visibly deformed on exam. If a person's chest moves strangely while breathing (this is called paradoxical movement), it could be a sign of a serious condition known as chain chest ; This is the result of the separation of the ribs from the chest.

With a chain chest, the movement of the chest when breathing will be abnormal. When a person with this condition inhales, their chest will move inward rather than outward. An unstable chest indicates a serious injury and is often associated with other serious bodily injury.

Severe symptoms

In some cases, a bruised or broken rib can lead to other health conditions that can even be life-threatening. If a person who has recently had a bruised or broken rib develops any of the following symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Severe pain that keeps getting worse.
  • Increased shortness of breath or shortness of breath
  • Hot
  • Coughing up blood or yellow-green mucus (phlegm)

Risk factor's

While anyone with a chest injury is at risk for complications, the elderly or people with low bone density ( osteoporosis ) are more likely to not only have rib fractures, but also to develop complications from the trauma, such as pneumonia. .

A persistent cough can also damage the ribs and is more common in smokers or people with medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ) .

Young people who participate in competitive sports may be more likely to suffer chest injuries, but may also be at risk for stress fractures affecting the ribs if they participate in sports activities that require repetitive movements (such as rowing).


Rib injuries are common, but the exact frequency is unknown. Because there is little that can be done about rib injuries other than treating symptoms and helping people avoid complications, medical intervention is often minimal and beneficial.


In most cases, a health care provider can diagnose a rib injury based on the person's symptoms and physical exam. Imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans may not always be done. Even when X-rays are used, broken ribs are not always visible on X-rays.

Rather than looking for a broken bone, a healthcare provider will likely order imaging to make sure the person with a rib injury has no other complications. If a person is involved in an accident, the presence of rib fractures may indicate the possibility of a more serious injury to nearby organs, including the abdomen.

Imaging may also be required if the person is at high risk for complications or has an underlying medical condition that could be exacerbated by trauma.

Injuries in children

An exception may be cases involving children, which generally require a more thorough medical examination. In an impact injury, a child's chest bones are more likely to bend than break because they are more elastic than bones in adults. If a child has broken ribs, it means they have suffered serious injury or abuse.

Additional tests and evaluations may be required to determine whether other organs have been damaged and to determine the nature of such a serious injury.


In some cases, rib injuries can lead to more serious illness or complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Pneumonia can be the result of chest infections that develop when a person resists coughing due to pain. A condition called a pneumothorax can develop if a broken rib damages a lung.

Other nearby organs can also be damaged by the ribs or by a blow and can cause bleeding into the chest cavity ( hemothorax ).

Watch out

The main treatment for rib injuries is time. In general, any type of injury takes four to six weeks to heal, although fractures (fractures) can take even longer .

Rib injuries can be very uncomfortable and a person may be tempted to reduce mobility, avoid coughing or deep breathing, and "grab" their torso to restrict movement. However, these interventions can put them at risk for complications and should be avoided.

In the first few days after the injury, when swelling is at its peak, ice packs can be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

While a person recovers from a rib injury, the main goal of treatment is to help them cope with pain and prevent complications from developing. Some over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can be taken while a rib injury heals. Your doctor can prescribe stronger pain relievers if necessary.

The pain and discomfort of rib injuries can be managed, although the person may need to make some temporary adjustments, including taking a break from work, for the first few days after the injury.

Sit straight

Some people especially notice pain and tenderness at night when they lie in bed trying to sleep. In these cases, it may be helpful not to lie completely horizontal. The person may even sleep a few nights sitting in a chair to relieve pain.

Not only does the upright position help relieve discomfort, it also helps you breathe. Some people find it helpful to press a pillow against the chest when coughing to absorb the sudden movement and stabilize the torso.

Breathe normally

Pain from injured ribs can cause a person to breathe less deeply and avoid coughing. However, it is important to breathe and cough normally when necessary to prevent complications. Breathing exercises during the day can also help.

Avoid smoking

Reducing or quitting smoking will improve the healing process after a rib injury, as smoking has been shown to slow bone healing .

Additional complications

Serious cases, such as complications such as pneumothorax or chest heaviness, may require additional treatment, such as surgery or procedures. If struck with enough force to damage multiple ribs, nearby organs can be damaged.

If a person develops a chest cavity, they should seek emergency medical attention immediately, as this injury is associated with other serious traumatic injuries. People with this condition may need surgical stabilization. It may take time on a ventilator to help with breathing while the body recovers from an injury.

Get the word of drug information

Rib injuries are common and range from minor injuries to serious injuries. Although the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of bruised and broken ribs are similar, the conditions are different. Be sure to see your doctor if you have chest pain. Although the condition can be mild in most cases, the complications associated with it can potentially be life-threatening.

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