How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

 

Having a broken rib is very painful. Coughing, breathing, turning or twisting to reach something are all made with an effort.

The most agonising is when trying to sleep. Every movement, either turning to the left or right brings out the most excruciating pain. So this week has been a tough sleep week for me. The good thing to come out of my experience this week is – I now know how to sleep with less pain! And want to give you some tips to reduce your pain level when you have a broken rib (which I hope you don’t) and want to have peaceful sleep with less pain.

CAUTION!! This information is un-researched data and has been tested on one case study only – me. Seek your doctors advice before following any of my tips.

Get a rib strap from your doctor first. It has a synergistic effect. Here is how you can sleep with less pain when you have a broken rib:

  1. Make sure your one year old child sleeps first. I tried to sleep first and got kicked at the injured site. He taught it was play time because it was what we do before I put him to sleep.
  2. The most comfortable position is to lie on the back. Actually the best would be to not to sleep at all – standing – but beware. Lack of sleep for over 48 hours results in psychiatric symptoms, notably hallucinations.
  3. Next best position is to sleep on the unaffected side.
  4. The third best position to sleep when you have a broken rib is to lie on your stomach.

How to reduce pain while turning during sleep.

  • From back position to side position: slowly swing your arm on the affected side to the side you wish to move to and rest your forearm in parallel with your body and with your arm supporting your body at an angle. This movement will enable you to face the side you are turning to.
  • Next, turn your whole body slowly to the direction you are facing by turning your shoulders. Do not turn from the waist. This will result in a painful twist!
  • Finally, move the leg that you are not sleeping on up into your chest slightly.
  • The final position position is somewhat like the coma position. With you sleeping on the unaffected side.
  • From this position you can easily move to sleep on your belly with much less pain.

The next sequence of movements is when trying to stand up from sleeping. The best approach is to do it from a belly sleeping position.

  • From sleeping on your belly and trying to stand up: Move your hands closer to your body as if trying to do a push up. Lift your body by extending your elbows. Your forearms should be supporting your body in the position as if trying to do a push up.
  • Next, draw your legs under you body and sit up on your feet. Much like how the Japanese sit in their traditional homes with feet folded under their feet.

By the way do not use a pillow. If you do, use a soft one, but you might end with a painfull neck in the morning. The angle created by your head lying on a pillow pulls on the chest muscles and causes pain on the affected side.

So there it is. My tips on how to sleep with less pain if you happen to have the unfortunate experience of having one of your ribs fractured.

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About rodney itaki

I am a medical doctor from Papua New Guinea. My posts focuses on current and emerging health issues in PNG and the Pacific.
This entry was posted in Family, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

190 Responses to How To Have A Painless Sleep When You Have A Broken Rib.

  1. stu h says:

    wow – plenty of advise here, as has been said, be cautious of anything that may restrict the ‘depth’ of breath that you can take, my doc had actually printed off the prescrition for Diazepam (Valium) to help me sleep when he had second thoughts. He was concerned that it may reduce my breathing enough to bring on a chest infection. Broke mine on both sides after the hammock i was lying in face down snapped at the head end – i landed on the piece of timber that stretches the hammock open. Night Four now with very little sleep – I guess its just a case of waiting and taking it easy.

  2. Gillian says:

    I slipped off the edge of a hot tub down 8 feet into a rock garden 10 days ago. I fractured 8 ribs on my back right side. This blog has been like a comforting friend to re-affirm my feelings and suffering. I am on a steady dose of hydromorphone, and it still hurts….sleeping has been the biggest problem, I finally borrowed a recliner from a friend 2 days ago, and although it is the most comfortable I’ve been in 10 days, I still have to sleep sitting up. If I slip down on my back I end up “turtling” and need my husband to pull me up, which caused excrutiating pain!. That is my story..thanks for sharing yours..it really helps to know I’m not alone here, nobody knows what you go through with cracked ribs until you’ve been there! Patience, deep breathes, and this blog are my saving graces!

  3. Anna says:

    September 8th 2012 at 1.02 am
    I was having an afternoon bike ride, lost my balance fell off the bike and crashed against some iron railings. Could not move due to the extreme pain in my left side, was admitted to hospital and after having been xrayed was diagnosed with 3 broken ribs. The doc amazed me by saying pain was character building and we don’t do much now for ribs as we no longer strap them up. He was so nonchalant, when I was in agony. 10 days into the injury and I am in so much pain, taking the meds helps but does not take away the pain. Trying to sleep is the worst, I sit up in bed with 3 pillows, struggle to move once in bed, and suffer agony when I get out of bed. Reading the comments from others has helped me know that other broken rib sufferers have experienced the same problems, can’t wait to be fit again

  4. rjdorrity says:

    I slipped and fell whilst climbing the steps out of my pool, landing on my side on the pool edge.
    I didn’t think much of it until the following morning when I had to go through the agony of trying to get out of bed.
    Went to Lymington Minor Injuries Unit early that morning and after an X-Ray they said I had broken 2 ribs. They also checked me for liver and kidney damage, blood pressure (obviously high) and did an ECG.
    They gave me some Co-codamol to take for three days and suggested other painkillers after that but warned me that broken ribs are a self-healing process which takes time, but if I had shortness of breath or other symtoms, that I should immediately come back. Lovely Doctors and Nurses!(Thank G*d for the UK’s National Health Service!)
    Five days on, coughing, breathing and sneezing are still agony and trying to sleep is a nightmare. However, reading some of the other peoples experiences, I might try sleeping in a lounger tonight.
    I wouldn’t wish broken ribs on my worst enemy (Mmmmm! Well maybe I would!)

    • Maryanne says:

      Hey, rj, go for a walk! Serously. You need to get your lungs working so that you avoid getting a respiratory infection, or worse, pneumonia. Trust me, it will help wear you out so you can be a bit more tired and cross over to sleep. And last, feel okay about using your pain meds. That second week is tough!

  5. Gillian says:

    I first posted on August 24th and now I am 4.5 weeks into my healing process. I managed to wean myself off the hydromorphone after 13 days, and now just take tylenol extra strength as needed. The best thing I have done is see a physiotherapist, she gave me lots af great advice, (much more helpful than my doctor), she said I should keep sleeping in the recliner for 4 more weeks,meaning it really takes 8 weeks to set properly, gave me exercises to strengthen my right arm movements, breathing exercises to help prevent lung infection and strengthen my abdominal muscles. She also recommended I get a massage to ease the tension the injury causes to the rest of my body. I hope this helps you folks out there, and continued good luck with your healing. Patience, patience, patience (yawn)

  6. Mk says:

    2 weeks ago, I broke 6 ribs following an ATV 4 wheeler Rollover. I now have what they call a flail chest. Odd there is no pneumothorax which is great news, but have mild collapse at the base of both lungs with mild pleural effusion. Yes the pain is super tough. I was very hesitant to take the Percocets x 2 every 4 hrs as directed along with Naproxen 3 x per day, but because I was not managing my pain, it was so difficult to breathe that I couldn’t speak even a few words. So,,, very reluctantly, I have gone back to the pain killers. I realize you put yourself into a catch 22 if you don’t manage your pain it is too painful to go for walks to avoid pneumonia. So if pain is not managed then you end up sitting in bed hardly taking in deep breaths.. and that is a recipe for pneumonia. In addition to pain meds, I sleep upright, also take magnesium, high levels of Vit C, Genecol for collagen, Vit D and B for healing and “Traumeel” a homeopathic remedy for healing injuries. After seeing so many accidents with ATV’s I will definitely be the first in line to say they need to be made safer and if not.. just plain banned! Thanks for all the tips it makes such a difference to learn from others who have been there! Hey a great tip for moving around in bed is to wear silky shorts.. Its like having a slider sheet they use in the hospital , So much easier on the ribs! Take care !

    • Mary c says:

      It’s now July 2014
      All these posts are older..but so helpful, makes having fractured ribs
      a lot easier, knowing you all went through the same experiences.
      I am going to get my husband to buy silk pj’s
      as I’ve tried just about every night dress, pj’s etc..
      And just get caught up or tangled, and as u know, just moving is
      Excruciating !!!!!

  7. Janet says:

    Broken ribs who knew how bad it can be. Fell off horse and broke elbow and rib in one go. Makes life difficult. Find sleeping,on back best but it’s the getting up and down with the muscles spasming and the bone clicking. Pain killers are a must, takes the edge off a very painful experience. Using breathing exercise as per labour ones to assist with movements. Might try a chair as suggested thanks guys.

  8. dan says:

    omg this is like a rib forum of sympathy.

    i now have a reason to buy a new recliner, cause yes i have broken 2 ribs.

    sleeping sucks, but the recliner is a better alternative to screaming like a baby in front of my six kids.

  9. CallyCal says:

    I am currently on day 7 of three fractured ribs and this website has by far been the greatest pain relief – it’s so refreshing to hear that other people are in the same boat and that I’m not being a drama queen!!

    I slipped whilst lifting my 2 year old out of the bath and landed hard on the edge of the bath rib first, dropping my daughter at the same time. I couldn’t even move, talk or breath to comfort her at first, heartbreaking! We both spent the day in a&e. On day 2 I felt ok! Business as usual with caution. Since then it just seems to have gotten worse. Breathing, bending, reaching and stretching hurt. Coughing, sneezing, hiccups and putting my shoes on are excruciating. Laying down and getting back up feels like imminent death!!! To make matters worse I have constant back and shoulder pain now which I’m guessing comes from holding myself awkwardly. Painkillers aren’t even taking the edge off!

    The hardest part is that no one ‘gets’ it. I have no external bruising whatsoever, I almost feel like a fraud! With a toddler to care for and a home business to run its literally impossible to ‘take it easy’. My boyfriend has now started with the hypochondriac jibes, which is helpful. I’m so tired with the lack of sleep that I laughed out loud when I read the ‘days blurring into one’ comment above, I’m in a daze! And to top it off I’ve totally lost my sense of humour, a real victor meldrew lol.

    Anyway, sorry for the whining but it helped!! This is worse than labour, and I had that for 4 days straight!

    Tip for the ladies, invest in some kind of sports crop top rather than a bra – it really helps!!

    Hope everyone feels better soon xx

  10. dibbledibble says:

    Thanks for the great stories and ad vice in the article and the comments!! Typing one handed due to not beng able to move myself round to the laptop fully. broke a rib, apparently from coughing in my sleep…I had a suspected fractured rib 6 months ago caused by erm, vigourous relations with my wife (!!) 🙂 and it seemed to heal as the pain got less after a week or two. I also ‘popped the rib joint’ of the same side a year previous to that, the same caused waas cited your Honour 🙂
    Then I was erm, engaged in such ‘matters’ once more and I had a sore rib afterwards. Same side, similar area. It is worth noting that at no point, since the first, has any Dr been willing to send me for an Xray. They seem to be so confident on going on guesswork. I’m a bit worried about that!
    So after that day my rib hurt when I breathed, moved or even THOUGHT ABOUT MOVING(!) but it faded and wasn’t so bad after a week. Then I apparently I have coughed in my sleep and I awake in agony, unable to move from the bed. Standing up I was yelping like a puppy with it’s tail trapped in a door. OW!
    So my previous boast to friends abour cracking my rib through my talents in the bedroom sort of faded when I now discover my ribs must be the weakest ever and can actually break in two by coughing! Damn! Though I still maintain the previous damage is what caused it really.

    Anyway here I am on what I think is now day three, night three. I slept in bed last night with lots of big sized cushions, those fluffy types we have al over our sofa. They are snug and comfy. I just lay amongst them and got comfy lying slightly turned AWAY from the affected side but almost sitting upright position too. My Dr told me that in the majority of cases, the pain will be made worse by lying down as the ribs take pressure on when you lie. Best to sit upright to sleep he says. I found he is correct in that.!
    The git told me it would be much better in about a week.
    I was coming home saying ‘Oh everyone thinks broken ribs take weeks! I thought it was 5 weeks haha!”
    – then I read this page and others. Cr*p!
    Six damn weeks of this.
    Oh well life goes on.
    Good wishes to fellow sufferers of this deeply harrowing imposition 😉

    Oh aand I already take 100mg Tramadol 4times a day for Crohn’s Disease pain and the rib pain STILL hurts when I am taking that! I am used to pains but I can concur: This is a hard one to tolerate.Best not moving at all but that isn’t best for your body and healing!

    • Janet says:

      cant even imagine what position you were trying but bet you wont use that one again lol…. good news I have just passed five weeks now and it has become a dull ache and sleep most of the night, just when turning over have difficulty but that might be more my broken elbow than the ribs. Only using paracetamol to take the edge off when I need to. You are only a couple of weeks behind me so you should be all good to go in the near future. Good luck

  11. wow!!! I’m in my 4th day of 1 broken rib. Just one and the pain is excrutiating. Can’t sleep in my bed. Recliner helps alot. pain meds help also. Only 1 broken rib and I feel lousy. I can imagine the pain for those who have more than one. I try to move as little as possible because movement causes alot of pain. Hope time flies. 6 weeks is too much for me. I’ll go insane.
    Thanks all for your posts.

  12. dan says:

    it will be 3 weeks tomorrow and sleeping on a recliner is not fun.
    lack of good sleep is becoming very apparent as i nod off like an elderly person.

    the only thing i could recomend for the pain is to stub your toe so your not concentrating on the rib pain. ugg…

  13. Holly says:

    I am exactly 4 weeks post broken 11th rib. I agree that the pain is the most I have ever felt (and I have experienced child birth labor but knocked out for the delivery:)) In any case, I had so much internal pain after my fall that I couldn’t drive myself to the hospital and since no one was around, I went via ambulance – the best that could have happened since I was given morphine as soon as my vitals were taken and wisked into the emergency room by paramedics. After a week on morphine, I still take ibuprofen daily. I can only sleep on my back still (propped up is best) and movement continues to hurt. Some of that is likely due to a hematoma on my adrenal gland, injury sustained in the same fall. I still have sharp pain in the affected area and am trying to determine if it is the bone or the internal injury. I don’t like to probe around in the rib area but am curious and anxious to know that the bone is healing. Since the 11th rib is a floating rib, I wonder if it takes longer to heal. FYI, I was told by my doctor that strapping or binding the area is typically not done anymore because it restricts the rib cage and the lungs from expanding. After getting off morphine, a muscle relaxer was prescribed and that at least helped give me a few hours of restful sleep each night. Icing the affected area is helpful in managing the pain and swelling, as well.

    Does anyone out there have experience with this specific injury and know whether or not I might be feeling pain from the bone break, the hematoma, or maybe severe muscle and nerve pain from the very hard impact that broke the bone in the first place? Or maybe all of the above. I am considering another Xray to see how things are moving along and will need another MRI in 3 months to be sure that the hematoma has resolved.

    Thanks for any advice.
    Holly

    • Janet says:

      Hi Holly, I am just wondering why you are taking ibuprofen. I was advised against this as apparently the bones need a swelling process to heal and ibuprofen reduces swelling meaning it takes longer to heal. Which for me was hard going a ibuprofen is one of the few pain killers I can take without reactions. If it helps I too feel pain when trying to move from my side to my back in bed or lean over but not sharp pain, more like some one pressing hard on big bruise area and I am half way in week five.

  14. Holly says:

    Thank you, Janet, for your quick reply. Actually at the hospital, they told me that I could add ibuprofen to the morphine for additional pain relief. Then when I didn’t want to take that any longer (at week 1 1/2) my doctor suggested a muscle relaxer to help me sleep. She knew I was taking ibuprofen and didn’t suggest otherwise. I had no idea that swelling aids the healing process for bones. I shattered bones in a finger a few years ago and after about 1 1/2 months, the bones were still not fully fused, so maybe I have slow mending bones. I feel better hearing that you are in week five and still feeling discomfort. So, I guess it really does take 4 – 6 weeks. I’m just feeling frustrated since I’m unable to do yoga and zumba yet. I also realized that the impact of my fall likely bruised muscles and tendons so I might be feeling discomfort there, as well. I’ll try to back off the ibuprofen and hope for improvement soon! Thank you for that bit of information.
    Holly

    • Janet says:

      Hi Holly, the information re ibuprofen was given to me at the fractured clinic by docs that specialises in broken bones. I too was on tramadol the morphine based pain killer and advised paracetamol as an extra..bain dropped the transfer as made me feel sick and just persevered. I have a.broken elbow also which I am using as a gauge for the rib pain. The elbow won’t bend much or straighten yet so figure everything else inside rib cage still fragile. Good luck

  15. Osama El-Kadi says:

    Hello from Egypt. I fell off my Horse and broken two ribs five days ago. Certainly life changing experince i.e having to give up smoking and learning pain endurance. Sleeping…well I think I remember how it was but am not even thinking about “bed” anymore. I use a comfy two seater sofa, I sit on one side and put four pillos next to me and one behind my neck, a chair in front to put my legs up if I need to. Now am well trapped, supported and comfortable and I can do two or three hors a go. This is my solution for the first week.

    • Holly says:

      Settle in for the long haul! I am on week 5 and still not sleeping well after one broken rib and some minor internal organ bruising. I moved back to my bed after two weeks and that was a challenge. If I were to have this happen again, I would rent or borrow a recliner. I have found that while sleeping on my back, a pillow under my knees seems to provide extra relief. I can’t even imagine having to give up smoking while going through such a painful injury. Giving up smoking might also loosen up things in your lungs and cause you to start coughing, so be prepared. Stifling sneezes is challenging too. Good luck.

  16. Susan says:

    I am caregiver for a 94 year old Mom who fell somehow the night before last. X ray did not find any broken bones, thank goodness, but clearly she has badly bruised a rib or ribs on her left side. She also has a huge purple bruise on her left thigh but literally all she speaks about is the pain in her left “breast”. After reading these posts, NOW I understand what she is going through. It is hard for her to explain things (some dementia which obviously gets worse when she is in pain) and there is no bruising at all at the site, which I see now is common for this type of injury. Thank you so much for posting your suggestions. I had no idea what to do and she was in such distress last night that I could only turn to the internet in desperation and praises be, found this site. We have no recliner but I propped her up with soft pillows, got out a Flector brand pain patch and turned up the oral pain meds to full throttle. Got her some gentle support (the softest possible bra) which actually helped her a lot-kept the weight from pulling on the sore area when she stands up. Every 10 foot trip to the bathroom is still a 25 minute ordeal but honestly, just these few suggestions have made a terrible situation a little bit better. You have helped me be a better caregiver and given several hours of much-needed rest to a fellow sufferer. Thanks to all.

  17. simon says:

    Well i didnt think breaking ribs would be this painfull ! remember deep breaths and dont become too lazy and spaek to youre missus as though she is god as you will be relying on her for quite a while.

  18. Colin McGregor says:

    Colin
    Thanks for the help on this forum. Fell on ice when out walking two and a half weeks ago. Knocked the stuffing out of me but got home. Went to GP couple of days later and was told ribs in lower right hand back side were bruised. But…moved wrong way in bed that night and ended up in casualty at 2am to be told they were broken. NHS 24 service was brilliant, seen straight away at hospital with pre-booked time, and my GP is great to get quick appointments. Been sleeping on opposite side and just started to sleep on my chest. When my girlfriend is not over I have wedged a pillow behind me to stop turning over in the night. First week was hellish – the pain was far worse than when I broke my humerous in a skating accident many years ago. Now weaning myself off the painkillers and maybe be allowed a glass of red wine on Hogmanay or New Years Day. Would also advise to get a rib belt to wear at least when out and about or even doing basic househiold tasks – it holds the posture and gives some added physical and even psychological protection. Look for milestones in the healing folks, if you can sneeze without agony it is a start – and do deep breathing 3 or 4 full inhales and exhales an hour. Also took glucosamine and chondratine to help the healing, I’d like to but cannot take calcium supplements.
    Good luck and hope others feel better too.

  19. It’s truly very complex in this active life to listen news on Television, so I simply use the web for that purpose, and get the latest news.

  20. nick says:

    I fractured one of my ribs recently while snowboarding and I found sleeping on my back brings me the most pain. Sleeping on the uninjured side works the best for me. I guess it depends on the person haha

  21. soccer girl says:

    I have by broken 3 ribs my sternum my xylaphoid and have internal bruising I sleep without pillows besides one by my head on the affected side so I don’t turn and lie on my back shoulders straight its the only way

  22. J Bainbridge says:

    Jane
    I am a golf nut and cyclist, for first time fell off my bike last week! Bruised 2 ribs and the agony while trying to sleep is not good! I find 3 pillows at an angle and sleeping on my back good! But turning over is a no no! Very frustrating, but enjoyed all the other fellow sufferers comments! Stay positive as much as possible! Speedy recovery I fear is NOT an option, and laughing is great but hurts so………

  23. betty84 says:

    What a welcome relief this site is! I knew broken ribs really hurt and it wasn’t just in my imagination!
    I got thrown from my horse 8 weeks ago after some dogs freaked her out resulting in a bruised pelvis and broken rib. I went for a short run after 7 weeks and i was in quite a bit of pain afterwards and now just after 8 weeks, i woke up in agony and had to resort back to some strong painkillers I’ve been keeping for emergencies!
    Is it possible to have re-broken? I thought i had been taking it easy – 7 weeks before i did any running was more than restrained for me!

    Wishing you all a speedier recovery than me!

  24. JJ says:

    People, I feel your pain-literally. I slipped while going down my icy steps 3 days ago and fractured 8 ribs on the same side. Trying to find the best level to place my 6 inch wide rib belt is challenging, as is transition in and out of bed. I could not sleep without my wife placing a pillow between my legs and the pain medication. I need her help getting in and out of bed. I also have a small pillow supporting my upper arm as I lie on my non-involved side. Fortunately we have a raised potty chair with arms over one of the toilets, or I don’t think I could do that by myself. The pain, of course, is incredible. I know this will get better with time, but that seems quite a while from now. Good luck everyone. Wish I had a recliner, although the controls all seem to be on the right side (my involved side) and I would have difficulty operating them anyway.

  25. Alexia says:

    I can’t help but reply….read all the post and didn’t see any like mine…so I will add to the “flavor” of cracked ribs! I fractured 5 on my left side along with my left clavicle in a riding accident – I was riding a friends donkey and he bucked me off. Had to ride out mountains 3 miles on another friends horse. Stayed 4 days in a rural ICU and also had a small pneumothorax which resolved (thank goodness) without chest tubes. Now I am into day 12 of recover – and graduated to sleeping in a bed (from a lounge chair) two nights ago. Have to have my husband help me lie down (it is terribly painful) and then I have to lie flat all night and not turn or the pain is unbearable. I have had several episodes of absolutely unbearable pain when I did not expect it …like tyring to change my shirt and getting caught in a position which results in unbearable pain. This is absolutely the worst pain I have ever had and never ever want to fracture ribs again! Here’s to our mutual pain and suffering!

    • Paula says:

      I thought childbirth was bad pain but this fractured rib takes the prize. I’m hoping some day this will just be a faded memory. good luck to all

  26. Maryanne says:

    Hey, my injury was one year ago and of all things I did to heal, the best was to get off the meds, go for walks ( fitness in real air greatly enhanced sleep) and to apply comfrey compresses to the bruised area.

    After about six weeks, the only trace of the broken ribs showed up five months later, when a scan for a kidney issue showed a mysterious, and very small, “spot on my lower lung”. After much consternation and a repear CT scan, it turned out the spot is located exactly where I broke my ribs. And thankfully looks like scar tissue, not a malignancey.

    So, moral of the story, if you have unrelated diagnostic procedures after you heal from your fractured rib(s), be sure to tell your doc that you had a rib fracture and exactly where it was. Heck, take your gosh darn scans and x- rays with you! That way, you can avoid the mental anguish and unnecessary radiation I went through. Even so, I am monitored every nine months to make certain my pet, Spot, doesn’t grow, but the lung doc is confident it is totally scar tissue, not anything else. Will keep you posted, but do be mindful that in our culture of medical testing on anyone who has good insurance, your so-called spot may well be harmless evidence of your rib smacking your lung.

    • Holly says:

      Very good points and good advice, Maryanne. I broke a lower rib 5 months ago. I had to have a CT scan while in the emergency room since my pain was so severe and my fall very hard. There was concern that there might be damage to internal organs. The scan showed a mass on my adrenal gland (a gland behind the kidney). An 8 year old scan showed that it wasn’t there 8 years ago, so it clearly needed investigation. The doc was convinced that it had nothing to do with my fall so they needed to rule out malignancy by ordering an MRI to get a better look. It turned out that it was, in fact, a hematoma, bad bruise/blood mass, caused by my fall. A follow-up MRI two months later showed that it was shrinking, which confirmed that it was “dissolving”. Thank goodness for insurance (although without insurance, all of these tests/treatment to the tune of nearly $12,000 never would have been ordered if it weren’t for insurance). Long story short, I do not need any further follow-up but still have residual pain in the area if I overdo my yoga stretching, heavy lifting, or vigorous workouts. The consensus from my doctor and physical therapist is that there was tissue or muscle injury in addition to the broken bone and that will take time to resolve.

      So for all of you who wonder when you will feel better, be patient but do slowly and gently get back into an exercise/movement routine so that your muscles don’t become weak. I found that other parts of my body compensated for my rib injury, thus causing further short term discomfort. I agree with Paula and others that child birth has nothing on a broken rib!

    • Barb says:

      OMG! This so relates to me! I pray that my spot on my lung is only scar tissue. I broke a rib 10 months ago. I am still in pain. It was almost gone 2 months ago and all of a sudden it hurt again. CT scan shows its still broken and I have a spot on the lower middle right lobe. Monday I find out what next…..but I broke my rib coughing with bronchitis and I mean I coughed hard!! So a rib fracture only added to the pain. I would literally press hard on the rib side with my arm and push up against a doorway to help it not hurt so bad when I coughed….Pure hell!! They say older people take longer to heal. I am 67. BUT if that visit monday reveals its only scar tissue, I will be so relieved!! Thanks for the post!

  27. Steve W says:

    Amazed wth the amount of replies & thank you to Rodney & all of you. I feel for those of you with multiple rib breaks. One thing that may help that i’ve learnt from mind body & soul information is how to breath properly with our diagphrams. i have just broken a rib (only one) and have been trying this and it has helped me to breath fully with less pain and be less out of breath. I still have to take deep breaths like the warnings given here. Please take advice from doctor first.
    The Technique: when breathing normally fill your belly with air first before you lift your chest and do the reverse on exhale lower the chest and bring your belly in. With all the stesses & strains of our everyday resposiblities we tighten up over the years and only breath in our chest. if you notice young kids their belly rises & falls when breathing. This method usess all our lungs bottom as well as top and brings back huge health & healing benefits. i have even found this to cure the odd headache here & their. seek medical advise first though. Good luck Steve W

    • JJ says:

      Good advice on diaphragmatic breathing, Steve. I fractured ribs 3 through 10 5 and a half weeks ago. Not long enough for complete healing, but things do get better. The first 3 weeks, as expected, will be your worst. Pain pills are recommended during this time, but come off them gradually or the side effects are nasty (and unnecessary). Be careful not to overdo things while under the pain suppressive effects of the pain killers or you will pay for it later and, possibly, have delayed healing, or set-backs. Sneezing will probably be worse than coughing, and will bother you probably for 4-8 weeks, depending on the extent of your injuries, but will diminish over time. As for the breathing exercisers, do them frequently throughout the day, but don’t overdo it. Start with just a few, slow repetitions. If you do too many, or too aggressive, you can be unnecessarily sore after.
      Heal well, JJ

  28. Jack says:

    I managed to fall from a small pair of steps onto my back and cracked n° 8 I am 80 years old and in all my life have never known such terrible pain from the second day, it is now 10 days and sleeping is a problem I sleep sitting up in bed with 5 pillows for support I get up about 4 AM for a walk around the house take a pain killer then back in the same position untill 6.AM the days are more comfortable than the nights,

  29. Holly says:

    I sympathize. I am almost 25 years younger than you and I was told by my doctor that I was not going to heal as quickly as when I was 20! So, patience is imperative. I tried to get back to some normalcy too soon and was set back slightly. I slept propped up on the sofa for two weeks. I did find, as you are finding, that I was actually most comfortable when standing for short periods of time. Standing seemed to take some of the pressure off the broken bone. I am more than 5 months post-break and had some internal injury along with the broken bone and there are times that the area is still uncomfortable if I overdo some of my exercise routine. Patience is key and getting back into mild exercise and movement slowly will build your strength back up. Best of luck.

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  33. Kathy says:

    It was interesting to read all these. I found out last Thursday (5/23/13) that I have 3 fractured ribs (right side, 6 – 7 – 8, under my armpit). How did I come by this injury? I reached across my body to zip up a dress I was trying on. I felt pain at the time but thought it was a pulled muscle or something of the sort – never imagine it would be a broken bone! When did it happen? ELEVEN MONTHS AGO! Doctor’s didn’t catch it – they thought it was inflammation and just teated it with Motrin. Last week my pain became worse (stabbing pain below my right breast in the same area in my back) I got a same day appt and asked for an x-ray. Ta-da! I’m having a bone density test next week (as I’m only 28 years old and reaching shouldn’t have broken THREE ribs). I was given Norco 5mg but it does little for the pain – maybe alleviates it slightly. Trying to get a better idea of where I am in the “healing” of this injury since it occurred so long ago!

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  35. Holomorphic says:

    I cracked two ribs after taking a fall on my mountain bike 5 days ago.

    My one tip on getting in and out of bed is to make sure you sleep with your good side (hopefully there is one) next to the edge of the bed that you get in and out of. So in my case I now sleep on the right side of a double bed. The first few nights were in a single bed effectively jammed against a wall on the right hand side, and then in a double bed on the left. Not good.

    I take some pain killers about an hour before going to bed and try to go to bed late. I also make sure I have something to listen to on the headphones – check out BBC Radio 4 podcasts.

    Getting in from the right involves sitting on the side of the bed with my butt in the right place and legs at right angles to the bed. I then start to recline leaning on my good (right arm) and at the same time bring my legs up slowly and onto the bed and into about the right place. Hopefully the body and legs act as counter-weights during this. Then continue down on my right hand side until lying down completely on that side, pulling the good arm out of the way either at the last minute or after lying down fully, Finally, flop over onto my back slowly, as that is the only way I can sleep. Last night I had a heat pad waiting for me in bed which I put onto the bad side as soon as I got onto my back which seemed helpful.

    As soon as I wake up I try and get out of bed immediately as this is the worst time. I cannot just stay there. I did try and take some pain killers before getting up but now I just want to get up ASAP.

    Getting up is nearly the reverse of getting in. First roll so that you are lying on your good side. I use my good hand to grab the bed frame to do this. Then I find it helpful to get my legs over the side of the bed and then kind of use them as counter-weights to lift the rest of my body slowly up whilst also pushing up with my good (right) arm. I have also hooked one of my feet under the bed frame for a bit more assistance. The precise trajectory up can be adjusted according to the pain. The final position is sitting on the bed with legs at right angles to the bed.

  36. bfourno says:

    Hi all!
    Saw tjis post last night hoping and hoping it would bring md some relief…no luck :(.. terrible sleep last night too. Dont want to sleep in a recliner and have to sleep by myself w.o my hubby… Going on 12 days now with a double fractured 7th right rib…What a story… had my hubby sit on my back to stretch it/crack it and, well, my back didn’t crack but my rib went “POP” “POP”… annnd now my seventh rib is fractured in the front & back… wayyy to go me. 23 years old and I break my rib in two places… luckily one was just a hairline fracture…the other not so much. Cant really take the pain meds they are giving me except at night despite being prescribed the max doseage safe to give…because I cant afford not to work :(. Sorry. Needed to vent about the pain &&lack of sleep…if anyone has other suggestions for sleeping id LOVE the them!!

  37. Dislocated rib? One word: chiropracter.

  38. Vincent says:

    Two nites back went for a tumble down a flight of stairs after tripping on a shoe doctor next morning up to hospital for an x ray den 4 fractures on left side this is unbelievable pain i sympathize wit anyone that went through r is going through this. Thanks for sleeping advice wil try a seat tonite its bin a nightmare the last few nights even trying to find a position is extremely painful on my stomach in the end las nite wasn’t so bad but waking up is torture very stiff and very sore. Get well soon everyone and watch out in future i know i will would hate to go through this again.

    • Gillian says:

      well it has been more than a year ago that I broke 8 ribs on my right side but I sympathize with you and just know there is light at the end of the tunnel….it took me 12 weeks of pain and agony and sleeping in a recliner but I was as good as new after that so hang in there..it really is the most depressing thing to go through and so debilitating but you will heal….good luck our friend.

  39. leonel samaniego says:

    I need tips too heal quick I’m a starter n my injury is swollen asap ?

  40. Rowan Walters says:

    Hi all,
    9 broken ribs one was a double, fractured scapula and lung puncture and other minor bumps. Fell off motorxer and got run over by following pack. Could not sleep lying down for 4 weeks spent 2 weeks in hospital with a chest drain and 3 drips 2 in my arms and 1 in my back ( epidural ) and still had trouble sleeping more than 3 hours. Sleeping in a recliner was the only option with the help of pain killers. It’s nearly 7 weeks and still in a lot of pain but have stopped pain killers and have not gone back to work yet. Rowan

    • JJ says:

      Man, Rowan, I thought I had it bad with 8 fractured ribs, some multiple, right 3-10, but 9 and a scapula and punctured lung. Triple oww! I have a physical job and was off for 4 months. I hope you are covered with disability insurance. It wasn’t until the third month that I could get around town and do mundane things. At 5 months and 9 days went surfing on my 64th birthday and caught a couple of small waves and a huge grin. You’ll get there. Do some breathing exercises, but go gradually so as not to pay for it afterwards. You should be getting in to see a Physical Therapist soon, but realize that they most probably have not seen anyone with that many fractures, and a scapula that is probably shaped differently than before the accident, so there is going to be some trial and error. Go slowly. I should know. I’m a Physical Therapist myself.

      • Maryanne says:

        JJ, thank you for this strong message of support and practical info. Rowan, it sounds like you are lucky to be alive, so live in gratitude for what you have rather than frustration with what is missing or getting better in what seems like forever. Healing takes time, care, nutrition, a supporting community of caregiver and friends… and it is all about the messages in your head. keep this blog tabbed as a go-to source for planting visages that can keep you moving forward. I fell and had just two ribs fractured and the healing was relatively fast, but still it was devastating to have to give up distance cycling. At that time, I had no idea what adventures lie ahead, so be open to all the possibilities,

  41. julie says:

    I have broken three ribs and have a slight tear in my lung.it is so painful.sitting up is the only way i feel comfortable.feels much worse to lay down.im only taking panadol as i cant take anything else.hurts to breath also.its been three days and still in agony.

  42. Miserable says:

    I was leaning over my tub today, cleaning it, when I heard and felt a “snap” in my left rib area and knew I was in for a lot of pain and misery. Now almost 2am and can’t sleep for the pain. (Hence why I wound up here!) Adding to the problem is I ALSO have a broken right wrist from a previous accident. Soooooo miserable and hurting. I know there’s not much to help as I’ve had broken ribs before. But best wishes to all of you who unfortunately found your way to this site.

    • Heather says:

      Hi, I’m nearly into my 4th week in hospital after breaking some ribs getting dressed, both my lungs have partially collapsed and I have some fluid in my left lung. Thus happened when I was getting dressed!! It also happened in March when I broke 3 ribs just getting in my car, I spent 10 weeks in hospital then as my lungs collapsed then too. The reason I spent so long as an inpatient was because the level of oxygen in my blood is/was at such a low level. I’m mite concerned that they find out why I can’t even do everyday things without risking my ribs snapping! The pain is just so bad. I agree, there is no comfy way to sleep, I find hugging a soft cushion close to the affected side helps a bit though. Good luck to the rest of you!

  43. Kim says:

    This is my 4th day after being thrown from my horse. I fractured 1 rib. God help those that have more than one. I am so glad I am not the only one that screams from the pain getting out of bed. I think tonight I will just sleep in recliner I have found that getting up from a chair is easier if you scoot to the end and keep your body straight over your legs and lift from the legs and not the back. My fear is the loratabs have caused constipation. I dread first bowel movement. I only take half a tab for fear of vomiting and the pain with it. When I do sleep in bed it feels better sleeping on the effected side. I just have really bad muscle spasms in the back of my shoulder it’s a killer. I Have soma for that but is makes me so sleepy. I can’t even think of when I can wash my hair and style it I guess I will be staying home a while. At 53 my body dosent bounce back as fast as it used to. This is the first broken bone I have ever had and I ho God bless you are all in my prayers

  44. Kim says:

    This is my 4th day after being thrown from my horse. I fractured 1 rib. God help those that have more than one. I am so glad I am not the only one that screams from the pain getting out of bed. I think tonight I will just sleep in recliner I have found that getting up from a chair is easier if you scoot to the end and keep your body straight over your legs and lift from the legs and not the back. My fear is the loratabs have caused constipation. I dread first bowel movement. I only take half a tab for fear of vomiting and the pain with it. When I do sleep in bed it feels better sleeping on the effected side. I just have really bad muscle spasms in the back of my shoulder it’s a killer. I Have soma for that but is makes me so sleepy. I can’t even think of when I can wash my hair and style it. At 53 my body dosent bounce back as fast as it used to. This is the first broken bone I have ever had and I hope the last one God bless you are all in my prayers

  45. Mary says:

    I am one week into 4 broken back ribs, a broken nose, bruised hip and shoulder bones and multiple cuts and scrapes from a 20+ ft fall down a bank into a creek. I hit a pipe full force with my back and broke the 4 ribs, etc. I have been in excruciating pain and the first few days were just almost unbearable. After reading the comments here, I positioned pillows in the recliner and am able to sleep for a couple hours at a time now. Everything is better now except the ribs which I am hopeful will improve with time. I have 5 children and this has been more painful than childbirth with any or all of them. Indescribable for anyone who does not go through it.

  46. Kathy says:

    Iv’e been reading about the Fisher Wallace Stimulator @ fisherwallace.com. It is a Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation device that is cleared by the FDA for chronic pain, insomnia, …… ect.
    You use it twice a day, and many people are now able to sleep, and to get off of pain meds and insomnia meds. It is covered by Medicaid and Medicare, and they provide forms for your doctor to fill out. May be covered by other insurance also. They have some videos. And it’s guaranteed.
    costs around $700. Then you may not have to worry about a bed or matress!

  47. Francis says:

    Fell on my back onto a brick two days ago (30/12). I have a brick corner shaped bruise. There’s three types of pain I’ve identified. One is the external injury, that is the huge black bruise. I can cope with that. Another is the bruised or cracked rib. This I can also put up with. The worst is the muscle spasms which will come from a burp or a cough or a sneeze or a laugh or one of my kids jumping on my lap or, just trying to get into bed and finding a comfortable position to sleep in. Why oh why am I getting these muscle spasms? I have never felt such pain. After trying different medication each day I’ve discovered Voltarin which works quickly, and while I still feel pain it reduces the muscle spasms. I’m writing from Sydney so I don’t know what the equivalent would be in other countries. Also as everyone’s physiology is different it may not work the same way. I also spend time sitting with my back against an ice pack. I’m not a doctor but my guess is reducing inflammation and spasms might lead to faster healing,

  48. Francis says:

    Just as a disclaimer to the above you might also want to read this:
    http://theconversation.com/researchers-call-for-voltaren-other-diclofenac-drugs-to-be-pulled-from-world-markets-12176
    Isn’t it always the way?

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