ZocdocAnswersHow can you tell if a rib is broken?

Question

How can you tell if a rib is broken?

Fell down and I think I broke my rib. It is very painful and hurts whenever I move. Did I break it? How could I tell if it is broken or if it is just a bruise and I don't need to go the doctor?

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you hurt yourself and that you are in such bad pain. I highly recommend that you go to see your doctor. There is no surefire way for you to tell for yourself if you broke a rib, and the severe pain that you are describing is worrisome. Your doctor will probably want to take an x-ray to look at the ribs to make sure that they are not broken. Also they will listen closely to your lungs and check your oxygen levels. The main complication from broken ribs and even from severe bruising over the rib cage is that people tend not to take deep breaths after the injury because taking a deep breath hurts. This may lead to problems with oxygen levels in the blood, and ruling this out is very important. Also, sometimes the pain from a rib injury is so severe that the pain is not controlled by standard over the counter pain medications. In these cases, a prescription strength pain medication can be very helpful, both because it will allow you to move around better and also because it will allow you to take deeper breaths. Go see your doctor right away!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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