ZocdocAnswersI have rib/upper back pain after I sneezed the other day. Could it be a dislocated rib or a strained muscle?

Question

I have rib/upper back pain after I sneezed the other day. Could it be a dislocated rib or a strained muscle?

I sneezed the other day while driving and had a pain in my middle back that took my breath away. I had to pull off to the side of the road for a few minutes. for three or so days afterwards I couldn't sleep because the pain in my left side near my spine and ribs was so severe. I went to the Dr. and was given an exam but no x-ray. My Dr. told me it was a cracked rib but not too serious. The severe pain has subsided but during the night when I turn over I feel a pull and discomfort. Also have a discomfort when sitting and taking a deep breath. It almost feels like right before you have a muscle cramp coming on and you can tell something just isn't right. My question is could it be a dislocated rib or strained muscle instead of fracture? I also live in Japan and getting the Dr. to do any type of x-ray is like an act of congress, pretty impossible. and another note, my upper back has been tight for a while and I have 4 bulging discs in my lower back.

Answer

So sorry to hear about your problem. It can be difficult to get the answers that you need in some situations, but speaking with your doctor should be something that can be accomplished anywhere. There are a few things that can cause the symptoms that you are describing, and a fractured rib can certainly be one of the answers. Your doctor may have chosen not to get an x-ray because he or she did not feel that it would change the treatment for your problem. It is common not to order tests unless it changes something about the way that you are treated, and your doctor may be trying not to increase the costs of healthcare if he or she is not worried about doing anything different. You are correct in saying that a pulled muscle could be another possible explanation, and there are others as well. Just like most bones, there are muscles that run between the ribs and can be torn or pulled with too much strain. In either the case of a fracture or a pulled muscle, the treatment is often the same. In most cases, doctors will manage these problems with pain control primarily. Again, please speak with your doctor for more information.

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