Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"I over stretched and now my ribs hurt. What could it be?"
I have pain
Rib pain - especially after activity - is very common. It can have a number of causes that range from benign to serious. You should talk with a physician about your rib pain, and when you do, be prepared to discuss the following information. The most likely cause of your rib pain is muscle strain or tear caused by stretching and doing damage to the muscle. There are layers of muscles between the ribs and other muscles that attach to the ribs that could have been affected. The pain could be caused by a localized tear, bruising, or bleeding into the muscle. The nerve endings in this area would translate all of these causes into pain. This type of injury can heal on its own and the pain can be treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine or Tylenol (providing that you do not have a contraindication to taking these). However, pain that limits your activity should be evaluated by a doctor to make sure that it is not something more serious. A more serious injury creating rib pain, would be a fracture of the rib itself. This type of injury is usually sustained during blunt trauma rather than simply stretching. However, if you have low bone density or if you had some trauma that went unnoticed, you could have a rib fracture. Rib fractures are very painful and are usually diagnosed with imaging like an x-ray or chest CT. It is worth seeing a doctor to see if any imaging is merited to rule out a bony injury. It is not possible to diagnose the cause of your rib pain without your seeing a doctor. Until you see a doctor, you should refrain from strenuous activity or stretching and take over-the-counter pain medication that is safe for you. I strongly advise you to make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as you can.
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