How to heal bruised ribs

Written by megan smith
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How to heal bruised ribs
(thorax x-ray of the lungs image by JoLin from

Bruised ribs is a term that refers to an injury in the muscles around the ribs rather than an injury to the actual ribs themselves. Bruised ribs are severely painful, but they can heal on their own as long as you see a doctor first. Your doctor will determine whether your ribs are bruised, cracked or broken. If you have broken or cracked ribs, your doctor may give you additional attention. Bruised ribs are most often associated with falling injuries and sports injuries. If you have experienced pain in your ribs as a result of an exerting activity, do not continue this activity. Stop immediately and seek medical attention.

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Things you need

  • Heating muscle cream like Tiger Balm

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  1. 1

    See a doctor. Before attempting to heal your bruised ribs on your own, go to the doctor to determine whether or not your ribs really are bruised. If your ribs are cracked or broken, your doctor will probably give you special instructions on how to sleep and breathe properly. If you have bruised ribs as opposed to broken ribs, your healing time may be cut in half.

  2. 2

    Take warm baths. The muscles surrounding your ribs will be very tender and sore to the touch for several weeks. One way to loosen these muscles is to take warm (but not scalding) baths for 10 to 20 minutes. If you experience any muscle swelling, follow the warm bath with a cold compress or cold towel over the affected areas for 15 minutes.

  3. 3

    Rub Tiger Balm or another heating muscle cream on the chest and rib area before bed. The muscle cream will allow the muscles around your ribs to relax, keeping the lungs open and unrestricted.

  4. 4

    If you are feeling tightness in your lungs, breathe in hot steam. Fill your sink with hot water and place a towel over your head to contain the steam. Breathe in deeply and slowly, allowing the steam to loosen your lungs and muscles. You can use the steam method if you have trouble breathing during the night.

  5. 5

    Alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen every four hours or as needed. Take these over-the-counter medications with a full glass of water and a full stomach. If your doctor prescribes an additional medication, ask if you may take over-the-counter medications in conjunction with your prescribed dose.

Tips and warnings

  • Bruised ribs will heal on their own in approximately four to six weeks.
  • If you experience black spots on your chest, severe pain or the inability to breathe, see your doctor immediately.

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