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Bruised rib care

Bruised rib-self care; Rib bruise; Bruised ribs; Rib contusion

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A rib contusion, also called a bruised rib, can occur after a fall or blow to your chest area. A bruise occurs when small blood vessels break and leak their contents into the soft tissue beneath the skin. This causes the skin to become discolored.


Common causes of bruised ribs are car accidents, sports injuries, or falls. Severe or prolonged coughing can also cause bruised ribs.


The main symptoms are pain, swelling, and skin discoloration.

What to Expect

Bruised ribs recover in the same manner as fractured ribs, but a bruise takes less time to recover than a rib fracture.

Self-care at Home

Here are some ways to help relieve pain and discomfort as you heal.


Icing helps reduce swelling by decreasing the blood flow in the area. It also numbs the area and helps relieve pain.


If your pain is not severe, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) for pain relief. You can buy these pain medicines at the store.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be used for pain by most people.

If your pain is severe, you may need prescription pain medicines (narcotics) to keep your pain under control while your bruise heals.

Tell your provider about any other medicines you are taking as drug interactions may occur.


Being in pain when you breathe can cause you to take shallow breaths. If you take shallow breaths for too long, it can put you at risk for pneumonia. To help prevent problems, your provider may recommend deep breathing exercises.


When to Call the Doctor

You should call your provider right away if you have:


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Major NM. CT in musculoskeletal trauma. In: Webb WR, Brant WE, Major NM, eds. Fundamentals of Body CT. 5th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2020:chap 19.

Raja AS. Thoracic trauma. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 38.

Yeh DD, Lee J. Trauma and blast injuries. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 76.


Review Date: 6/9/2019  

Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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