Could my ribs be responsible for my back ache?

Mar 9, 2016

What is rib dysfunction?

The rib cage is designed to be mobile as so that it can expand as we breathe in and relax as we breathe out. The ribs move in a specific pattern, which is essential to get air into our lungs. A rib dysfunction occurs when a rib does not coordinate its movements with the other ribs properly. Sometimes a rib can get stuck and cause pain, muscle spasms, and difficulty with breathing.

How does someone get rib dysfunction?

There are many different issues that can cause rib dysfunction. Theses include poor posture, muscle imbalances, and poor spinal alignment, carrying heavy loads, impact trauma and rotational strains to the ribcage. Rib dysfunction can also be caused quite simply from a coughing or sneezing attack. Sports, such as rowing, where there are repetitive pulls to the ribcage can also cause rib dysfunction.

What does rib dysfunction feel like?

The symptoms of rib dysfunction can feel very scary as it is often described a sharp stabbing pain in the back of the rib cage that radiates through to the chest. Many people can find this alarming and may think they have an issue with their heart or lungs. The symptoms are usually on one side on the back of the rib cage. It is often made worse with taking a deep breath in. There maybe tenderness and pain localised to the affected rib. Coughing, sneezing, and laughing can also aggravate the pain, as well as flexing, twisting, or bending the torso.

What can I do to help the pain?

  • Initially ice-packs can be placed locally over area for periodic bursts of 5 to 10 minutes to help reduce any local inflammation. Once the initial soreness eases heat can be applied to help to relax the muscles that maybe in spasm protecting the injured area.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may also be helpful in reducing any local inflammation and pain. Make sure you get advice from your GP before taking any course of medication.
  • Osteopathy can also help with rib dysfunction by using soft-tissue massage, stretching and joint mobilisations to ease the tension and help restore normal function to the rib cage. We can also advise on exercises and lifestyle changes to improve strength in postural muscles and help you adopt a better working environment to prevent the issue from reoccurring.

If you would like more information about rib dysfunction contact us at Cheadle Osteopathy on 0161 478 1877.

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