Slipping Rib Syndrome: Causes and How to Fix a Slipped Rib

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slipping rib syndromeThe human body is a complicated machine. Through evolution and time, it has turned into this amalgamation of parts and organs that have function and purpose. But every once in a while, something goes slightly wrong and the body has a malfunction you never thought was possible. Take slipping rib syndrome, for example. One of your lower ribs slips out of place. How can it even do that? All of your ribs are fastened into place, aren’t they? Nope, some of your ribs can slip and cause you some issues.

In this article, we’ll take a look at slipping rib syndrome. From slipping rib syndrome causes to slipping rib syndrome symptoms, treatment, and exercises, by the end of this story, you should be armed with all of the basics about slipping rib syndrome.

Slipping Rib Syndrome Causes and Symptoms

Slipping rib syndrome occurs when one of your ribs slips out of place and causes pain and discomfort. This pain is exacerbated by the fact that pretty much everything you do, from breathing to moving, involves your chest. It’s usually the eighth, ninth, or tenth ribs as they are not connected to the sternum and tend to naturally “float.” But what can cause these ribs to slip out of place?

1. Chest-Related Illnesses

Illnesses that affect the chest like bronchitis, chest colds, and sinus colds and infections can weaken the chest muscles (especially if they come with a hardy cough). This can allow the ribs to slip.

2. Asthma

Much like chest colds and bronchitis, asthma attacks can weaken the muscles and ligaments in the chest that hold the ribs in place.

3. Fragile or Damaged Ligaments

The sternocostal, costochondral, and costovertebral ligaments are what hold these loose ribs in place. These can cause a rib to slip if they are damaged or have become fragile due to injury or other circumstances.

4. Chest Injury

An injury to the chest can also cause the ribs to slip. Anything hard enough to cause potential damage to the chest muscles, ligaments and tissue can result in slippage.

As you can see, the potential causes of slipping rib syndrome are pretty common and could happen to pretty much everyone. With that in mind, how do you know whether it’s a slipped rib or something else? The answer for that comes from a doctor.

How to Diagnose Slipping Rib Syndrome?

For a full diagnosis of slipping rib syndrome, your best bet is to see a doctor and get an examination.

These exams could possibly include:

1. Current Medical History

The doctor should go over your recent medical history. Have you suffered from a hacking coughs or colds recently? Did you take a hit to the chest during your regular Tae Kwon Do class? These factors are important to a doctor trying to determine whether you have slipping ribs, a bruised rib, or just strained chest muscles.

2. Physical Examination

The doctor will probably take a look at your ribs to try to determine what is causing you pain. This can be done by examining the symmetry of your ribs, which may indicate that one is out of place. The doctor may also choose to do something called the hook maneuver. The hook maneuver involves you lying on your unaffected side, while the therapist hooks his fingers under the lower costal margin and pulls anteriorly (anterior stretching). A positive test reproduces the patient’s pain and can cause a click. This test is not fun.

3. Sonography

A sonography, also known as ultrasound diagnostic imaging, can provide a fairly accurate depiction of where the ribs are currently placed.

Now that you’ve got the diagnosis of slipping rib syndrome, what is the next step? What is the slipping rib syndrome treatment?

Treating Slipping Rib Syndrome

Some of your ribs are slipping out of place. It’s painful and no fun. How do you prevent this from happening again? Luckily there are a few treatment methods available to help prevent slipping rib syndrome from occurring.

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy for slipping disc syndrome usually focuses on the chest muscles, strengthening them and the ligaments attached to them. This will help the next time your ribs get attacked by a cough or an injury.

2. Chiropractic Treatment

There are a number of chiropractic and massage treatments available that can help pop the ribs back into their proper spots.

3. Surgery

Unfortunately, slipping rib syndrome surgery may be the only solution, depending on how bad the condition is.  If the rib does not slide back into place or cannot be manipulated back into its place through external methods, surgery may be necessary.

Another very good idea is exercise.

Exercises for Slipping Rib Syndrome

As previously mentioned, exercising can help build up the rib and chest muscles. You will also try to build up flexibility in the ribs so they have a little more wiggle room and are less likely to fall out of place.

When you are first starting your exercises, segmental breathing is used to gain more mobility in the ribs. Pressure is applied to the chest (by a therapist), usually where the ribs join the sternum. Breathe in and expand your lungs while the pressure is applied. The pressure is moved from one segment to another.

In an exercise designed to increase flexibility, arch your back and allow your rib cage to expand; then bend forward and compress your chest and ribs. Do not go beyond your comfort level as you may just end up injuring yourself.

These are just two exercises that could be of some help, but if you are unsure, check with your doctor or physiotherapist about exercise suggestions and movements. Above all else, make sure to take the exercising slowly. If you try to do too much, too fast, there is a definite risk of reinjury.

Knowing is Half the Battle

If you have suffered a sharp chest pain around the rib area, there is a strong possibility that you may have already slipped a rib once or twice. Anything from a cold to a sports injury can cause it to occur. But now that you know what slipping rib syndrome is, you should be better prepared to deal with it if it occurs—and possibly prevent it from happening at all. If you think you’ve had a case of slipping rib syndrome before, start working your chest muscles a little more when you go to the gym. Another couple of minutes could save you a number of weeks in pain and aggravation.

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