With proper care, a fractured rib often heals after six weeks, according to WebMD. People with fractured ribs can treat their injuries at home by applying ice, resting properly and taking pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Doctors sometimes prescribe stronger pain medicines if necessary.
To prevent a partial collapse of the lung tissue or pneumonia, people with fractured ribs should cough or take a deep breath at least once per hour during the healing period, suggests WebMD. Lying on the side of the injury allows a person to take deeper breaths if that person does not have a neck or back injury. Avoid wrapping the injured rib area firmly, as that can impede the patient from taking deep breaths.
A direct hit to the chest due to a fall or vehicle accident commonly causes a fractured rib, notes WebMD. People with osteoporosis, cancer or another bone-weakening disease may fracture a rib by coughing hard.
Symptoms of a fractured rib include moderate to intense pain in the affected area, painful breathing or pain around the injury when somebody presses the breastbone, states WebMD. Always call for medical help after a rib injury, as a hard blow can also injure other body parts, such as the lungs or spleen.