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Q. How can I manage pain in ribs with breathing difficulty after a fall?

Answered by
Dr. Pooja Pardhi
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Jan 09, 2019

Hello doctor,

I slipped, fell and landed on my side four days ago and have been in a lot of pain since around my ribs on the left side. The pain has not lessened, sometimes feels worse. It hurts when I breathe so I have to take shallow breaths. I know that X-rays will not do much and I realize that not much can really be done at all. So my question is what can I do to help the healing process or if there is anything I should not be doing. I have been going to work and avoiding heavy lifting. I cannot really afford to take more than a few days off. Would it slow the process of healing if I continue to go to work but avoid heavy lifting and any strenuous activity?

Dr. Pooja Pardhi

General Medicine Internal Medicine


Welcome to

I have thoroughly gone through your case and can well understand your genuine health concern. Severe pain on the ribs and breathing difficulty after a fall indicates some injury to the ribs. Even a minor fracture of the ribs can cause severe pain and breathing difficulty. Sometimes, severe muscular spasm following a fall can also cause such symptoms. So you need a proper physical examination. As you mentioned that you fell on the left side and having severe pain and breathing difficulty also, I suggest you get an X-ray done and consult an orthopedician. It is true that X-ray will not help much but you can get it done to make sure that there is no rib fracture.

For minor rib fracture, only conservative management should be done. You need to take rest, avoid excessive spine movements, avoid sleeping on left side, avoid lifting heavy weights. In my opinion, you should take rest and avoid working for a few days. I would suggest you take some oral anti-inflammatory drug in combination with muscle relaxant drug twice daily for about five days. You can also apply some analgesic cream or ointment twice daily. Also, hot water bag over the painful area for 20 minutes thrice daily for pain relief.

The Probable causes:

Rib fracture or muscular spasm.

Investigations to be done:

X-ray thoracic spine- AP and lateral.

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