It is important to see a doctor for pain relief from bruised ribs if normal breathing is not possible as a result of the pain, according to MedicineNet. Pain that causes shallow breathing as a result of the lung cage not fully expanding can increase the risk of lung infection.
Rib injuries can take from three to six weeks to heal, and pneumonia is a serious complication of rib injuries, notes MedicineNet. Because the lungs function like bellows, normal breathing involves the diaphragm moving downward and the ribs swinging outward as air is taken into the lungs. When a patient is unable to breathe deeply, air can stagnate in the lungs and the lung tissue cannot expand properly. When a person receives treatment for rib pain, a health care professional listens to the chest to check for any associated lung damage.
Rib pain can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and narcotics, and by applying ice to the area to allow a person to take deep breaths more easily, explains MedicineNet. Additionally, to help a patient visually determine how deeply he should breathe, an incentive spirometer may be used. Wrapping ribs is no longer considered beneficial as this may increase the risk of developing pneumonia due to the wrap interfering with lung expansion.