What Are the Causes of Bruised Ribs?
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Bruised Ribs - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Published on Oct 28, 2022 and last reviewed on Nov 01, 2022   -  4 min read


Contusion that follows an injury to the rib area is called bruised ribs. Read the below article to know more about this condition.


Have you ever experienced a hit or a blow on the chest? If so, you might know how painful it is, right? The hit or the blow suddenly transforms the skin color and causes symptoms such as pain, which might indicate a skin bruise. A skin bruise is not a serious condition that needs medical intervention. It mostly heals by itself without getting treated or by conservative treatments. However, it can sometimes be associated with internal problems such as a rib fracture, called a broken rib, that requires medical support. Read further to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for a bruised rib.

What Is a Bruise?

A bruise is nothing but a hematoma (collection of blood under the skin) that occurs from damage to small blood vessels. The only difference between a bruise and a hematoma is that large blood vessels are involved in the latter. A bruise is a red area noticed on the skin when a person gets hit with something. It results when the small blood vessels or capillaries in a particular area are damaged, thereby bleeding into the surrounding tissues under the skin. A bruise is also called a contusion.

What Are Bruised Ribs?

When taking a hit or suffering a fall on the chest, we might notice a redness developing on the chest shortly or sometime later after the fall; this redness is called a bruised rib. In simpler terms, a bruised rib is damage to the rib bone that does not involve a rib fracture. Sometimes, it might also be associated with a fractured rib; in such cases, it is called a broken rib and not a bruised rib. A broken rib can only be confirmed using an X-ray. The intensity and the skin color of the bruise usually vary depending on the severity, time of injury, etc.

What Are the Causes of Bruised Ribs?

Bruised ribs often result from any of the following;

What Are the Symptoms of Bruised Ribs?

The symptoms of a bruised rib often obviously involve a dark bruise in the rib or the chest area. Other symptoms include;

  • Change in skin color from normal to reddish, purplish, or brownish in the area of the bruise.

  • Swelling in the area of the bruise.

  • Pain and tenderness on touching.

  • Twitching of the chest muscles.

  • Deep breathing, especially when inhaling, coughing, and sneezing involving the chest muscles, can trigger the pain. Sometimes, pain exists even when not doing anything.

Sometimes, a broken rib might as well be encountered; in such cases, the same symptoms exist, along with cracking sounds of the bone.

How Is a Bruised Rib Diagnosed?

A bruised rib does not require any diagnostic tests. It is confirmed by clinical examination and patient history. However, if a fracture is suspected, imaging tests such as an X-ray, CT (computed tomography) scan, or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) might be indicated.

How Is a Bruised Rib Treated?

Bruised ribs often subside by providing proper home care. Following are a few at-home care treatments for bruised ribs;

  • Rest from work for at least the first two to three days. Do not overexert yourself by lifting heavy weights or doing strenuous exercises; at the same time, refrain from lying in bed the whole day; instead, walk around a little bit.
  • Do slow and deep breathing exercises to activate your muscles.

  • Avoid habits such as alcohol, chewing tobacco, drugs, and smoking, as these can interfere with healing and delay it.

  • Try not to sleep on the affected side and try to sleep facing upwards in the upright position to prevent pressurizing the bruised site.

  • Be cautious while walking around, lying on the bed, or moving your body; to avoid accidentally bumping or getting hit on the affected area.

  • Do not hold sneezing or coughing; if resisted, the cough can build up in the lungs, causing infection.

  • Place ice packs wrapped in a cloth over the bruised area at least twice or thrice a day for the first two to three days or until the swelling subsides. Ice packs help ease the pain by numbing the area and decreasing the intensity of the redness caused by the bruise.

  • Take medications such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen in the right dosages after consulting with your physician and analyzing your condition. Caution must be taken in case of any underlying diseases or allergies; mention it to the physician while getting a prescription.

  • Do not wrap the bruise using a bandage or a tight cloth, as it can interfere with normal breathing.

  • Apply local NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) ointments or sprays over the affected area for faster healing. Thrombophob gel can be applied to treat skin discolorations caused due to rupturing of the capillaries.

In cases of the symptoms such as;

  • Breathing difficulty.

  • Blood in cough.

  • Continuous and severe pain.

  • Any allergy due to medications taken.

Or if the existing symptoms do not subside, visit a physician and get treated to avoid further complications.

How to Prevent a Bruised Rib?

Bruised ribs can be prevented by caution and practicing certain preventive measures while getting involved in sports activities such as,

  • Wear protective vests, a chest shield, or a guard while getting involved in sports activities such as boxing, wrestling, etc.

  • Fasten the seatbelt while driving.

  • Avoid getting punched as it could be problematic to the vital organs as well.


A bruised rib is not a serious condition unless there is underlying organ damage. One does not have to be worried about organ damage right away after suffering an injury, as it is rarely the case. At-home care mostly treats this condition without the need for medical intervention. When a chest injury is suffered, identifying the bruise, providing proper care at the right time, and resting can aid in a speedy recovery. Also, when in doubt of a serious complication following a bruised rib, do not delay in calling and seeking help from your physician.

Last reviewed at:
01 Nov 2022  -  4 min read




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