Sharp Pain Rib Sprain

Rib Sprain

Sharp Pain behind the Shoulder Blade, could it be a Rib Sprain?

A Rib Sprain will usually present as a sharp deep pain either side of the spine, sometimes under the shoulder blade that is worse when breathing. This type of pain can come on suddenly after a lift, an awkward twist or even a sneeze.

Who gets Rib Sprains?

Anyone can get them!

  • People with hay fever allergies or asthma who cough or sneeze more often.
  • Athletes: powerlifters, contact sports (AFL, Rugby league, Rugby Union, NFL)
  • Tradies who have to lift things awkwardly
  • Nurses and Paramedics who have to lift patients

Rib Anatomy

The rib cage as it’s known is made up of 12 ribs including. The Upper 7 ribs are called “True Ribs” because they attach from the back of the spine, to the front anteriorly via costal cartilage into the sternum. Ribs 8-10 are known as “False Ribs” because they attach from the back to the front of the sternum indirectly via one connected segment of costal cartilage. Ribs 11 and 12 are known as floating ribs as the attach to the back of the spine but not to the front.

Ribs are bones which attach to the vertebra and sternum via three separate synovial joints, two posterior and one anterior.

  • Costovertebral joint: deepest joint posteriorly between the rib head and the vertebral facet.
  • Costotransverse joint: more superficial joint posteriorly between the rib facet and transverse process of the vertebrae.
  • Costochondral joint: Anterior joint between the rib and the costal cartilage which attached to the sternum.

What is a sprained rib?

A sprained rib is an irritation of one of the three rib joints. Usually an overstretching of one of the joint capsules or from a jarring action where the two joint surface are compressed.

What are the symptoms?

  • Sharp pain in the back, sometimes radiating to the front where the rib attaches
  • Sharp pain on deep breathing
  • Pain when coughing or sneezing
  • Pain on rotation of spin or neck
  • Pain when lifting overhead

How long does it take to heal?

Depending on which of the three rib joints have been irritated, ribs tend to have a longer prognosis than other joints because of their involvement in breathing, they can never fully rest, because they’re job is to keep you breathing.

Recovery can take anywhere from 3-12 weeks

What should you do about it?

Sprained ribs can be debilitating and stop you from performing, competing or even going to work.

Seeking the advice of the Osteopaths and Physiotherapists at Alpha Sports Medicine will help you get onto the right treatment plan. Our team in Newport, Melbourne are well trained in rib anatomy and diagnosis.

The Alpha team can give you the right treatment plan and rehabilitation advice to get your rib back on track, and return to training and work.

Know Your Body!

Chest pain can also indicate more serious conditions, so know your risk factors, and know your body

If you have

  • History of high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Family history of heart conditions
  • Sudden onset of left or central chest pain
  • Radiating pain down the left arm or into the left side of neck
  • Nausea or Vomiting symptoms

Call 000 immediately


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