It usually takes between 3 to 4 months for injured rib cartilage to completely heal. The cartilage on the ribs take a longer time to heal compared to the other parts of the skeletal system because the blood flow to the injured area is hindered.
The primary function of the rib cage is to protect the internal organs on the upper portion of the torso, particularly the lungs and the heart. The rib cage also assists in breathing. It has 24 ribs and is formed with a sternum, coastal cartilage and a vertebral column. Among the 12 ribs on each side of the rib cage, the first seven ribs are connected to the sternum by the coastal cartilage. The next five ribs are connected to the sternum by a common cartilage called the osteochondral joint.
Most of the injuries to the rib cartilage are caused by direct impact to the area. These types of injuries may be inflicted through sports activities, vehicular accidents, domestic fall and blows to the area. Forceful coughing may also cause rib cartilage injury. Among the symptoms of an injured rib cartilage are extreme pain at the site of the injury, difficulty in moving and breathing, spasms in the site of injury and deformed rib cage.
Injuries to the rib cartilage are diagnosed via x-rays, CT or MRI scans and bone scans. Treatments for this type of injury include ice application to the injured area, pain medications, rest and physical therapy for around 6 to 8 weeks after suffering the injury.