Individuals with fractured ribs should seek medical attention, as they can cause serious damage to internal organs and blood vessels, according to Mayo Clinic. An out-of-place rib bone can tear the aorta and other blood vessels or puncture the lungs, spleen, liver or kidneys. Signs of a rib fracture include pain when inhaling deeply, applying pressure to the chest area, and bending or twisting the torso.
If these symptoms are accompanied with feelings of pressure in the chest or pain that spreads to the arms or shoulders, individuals should seek emergency medical attention, as these can indicate a heart attack, advises Mayo Clinic.
The most common cause of fractured ribs is a physical blow to the chest, explains Mayo Clinic. They can also result from repetitive stress, such as from heavy coughing or sports that rely on the upper body. Contact sports also increase the risk of broken ribs due to the likelihood of physical trauma. Some medical conditions, such as osteoporosis and lung cancer, can weaken the rib bones and increase the risk of breakage. Daily calcium supplements can help strengthen bones and counteract risk factors.
Ribs typically heal without intervention in approximately six weeks, states Mayo Clinic. To avoid pneumonia, it is important that the patient is able to take deep breaths, and the doctor may prescribe pain medications if the patient has difficulty.