All About Rib Pain
Knowing how to deal with rib pain can come in handy especially when you realize that the pain is not caused by any underlying disease or condition but rather is coming from the ribs themselves. The ribs are slender long bones running from the front of the body to the back where they attach to the spine. They offer support for the skeletal structure and at the same time provide protection for the majority of the body’s vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, and others.
There are a number of ailments and conditions that will disguise themselves as rib pain or at least pain in the overall chest area. Some of them are serious while others are more mild and not life threatening as long as they are treated in a timely manner. Some of these ailments include:
• Problems affecting the respiratory system such as asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism, pleurisy, pneumonia, pleural effusion, flail chest, tuberculosis, pneumothorax, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
• Problems affecting the cardiovascular system such as aortic dissection, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, congenital cardiac anomalies (inclusive of genetic and birth disorders).
• Cancerous causes such as bone cancer, bone marrow cancer and lung cancer. The pain is felt in the chest area and can feel like it is radiating from the ribs.
• Problems affecting the digestive system such as inflamed gallbladder or gallbladder stones, gastritis, peptic ulcer, pancreatitis or other pancreatic complications, hiatal hernia, heartburn, esophageal spasm.
Causes of rib pain that are actually related to the ribs include:
• Broken or bruised ribs and or chest wall.
• Fibromyalgia where the sufferer is enduring chronic pain accompanied with stiffness and tenderness.
• Inflammation of nerves or nerve groups that are located in the chest areas, especially those connecting the ribs.
• Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis resulting into inflamed joints.
• Strained muscles in the chest area, arm and or back.
• Infection of the ribs and spinal alignment disorders such as scoliosis and kyphosis.
• And finally, multiple sclerosis and Costochondritis, the former causing balance and weakness problems while the latter is the inflamed cartilage between the ribs and the breastbone.
Symptoms associated with rib pain that should warn you that something is terribly wrong include:
• Chest pain when breathing or coughing, the pain may radiate to the arm, shoulders, and or back. There may also be pressure and tightness of the chest as well as a cramping or tearing sensation. Especially when it is sudden, this could be the sign of a heart attack and one should dial 911 immediately.
• Respiratory problems such as breathing, shortness of breath, painful breathing, rough and noisy breathing, wheezing and or choking. This could be evidence of a collapsed lung and should be checked out immediately.
• Clammy and cold skin combined with a high fever. Some times one may also experience heart palpitations, as well as confusion and loss of consciousness. In some cases, the person may start coughing out green or yellow mucus. This is not a good sign especially if it is in combination with breathing problems.
• Pain may also appear in other areas such as the abdomen (it is likely to be severe) arms and back, the torso area, and other parts of the body accompanied by weakness. It may also become very difficult to move any parts of the body without any pain and the shoulders and arms are likely to be stiff.
Treatment of rib pain
The best way to get treatment is first to get yourself diagnosed by a medical doctor. Once the cause of the pain has been established then the doctor will prescribe the treatment for that particular ailment. Broken ribs are treated like any other broken bones and the doctor will recommend certain over-the-counter medications to deal with the pain management.
For those with Costochondritis (this is where one has chronic rib pain), you can see a chiropractor who can offer you some helpful treatment. In most cases, doctors recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers used on a long term basis. This kind of condition is common in people who carry heavy loads a lot, women with huge breasts, unfit thoracic core muscles that are too weak to support their body weight. The chiropractor’s treatments are aimed at improving flexibility and reducing the pain.
If left untreated for a long time, rib pain can result into various complications such as: abnormal heart rhythms, cardiac arrest, sepsis, shock, pneumonia, respiratory failure, acidosis, high levels of carbon dioxide, low oxygen levels, and injury to the very organs that the ribs are supposed to protect especially in the case of broken or infected ribs.
Given the sensitive nature of their location and the organs underneath, it is important to see a doctor immediately as soon as you begin to experience any form of rib pain. The pain can be gnawing, stabbing, tender, aching, tearing or searing. It can appear only when you cough or it can be long standing, or appear at specific times. Whatever the case, have it checked out immediately to ensure that it is not life threatening, and is it is you can get immediate medical help.