Some of the most common injuries facing athletes are bruised or broken ribs. When you bruise your ribs, the muscle tissue between your ribs is usually damaged, causing pain and discomfort. Fortunately, the road to recovery from this type of injury is relatively simple and will mainly require you to get a lot of rest and perform some easy exercises.
If you suspect that you've suffered a rib injury, the first step should be to visit your doctor. Unlike other skeletal injuries, bruised or broken ribs cannot be put in a cast. Instead, they require time to heal on their own. However, this does not mean that you won't need any medical attention following a bruised rib; an injury such as this can lead to other health problems, such as a collapsed lung or pneumonia. The best way to prevent additional medical complications is to see a physician immediately after the injury.
For the first 48 to 72 hours after your rib injury, breathing will probably be quite painful, and deep breathing might seem impossible. During this time, it is advisable to get plenty of rest while trying to keep your breathing pattern as normal and regular as possible. You'll also want to keep an icepack on hand to prevent excessive swelling in your rib cage and take anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
After a couple of days, your ribs will still feel very tender, and the pain probably won't have diminished significantly. It is now time, however, to start some deep breathing and stretching exercises. If you spend all of your time lying around and only breathing gently, the muscle tissue between your ribs will stiffen and weaken, which can lead to additional pain in the future.
Begin by sitting comfortably and inhaling slowly through you nose. Gradually fill your lungs with air and hold it in for three to six seconds. Slowly exhale the air at a constant rate of flow. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times every one to two hours. The exercise will probably be painful at first, but should become increasingly comfortable as the muscle tissue in your ribcage heals and relaxes.
Try lying flat on your back with your arms extended above your head and resting on the floor. Perform the same breathing exercise slowly, concentrating on the gentle expansion and upward motion of your chest. If any of these exercises exceed your pain threshold, discontinue them immediately and see a doctor. Bruised ribs will take four to six weeks to heal, and you certainly don't want to exacerbate the injury by overextending yourself too early.