The symptoms of a broken rib include very strong pain upon breathing deeply, twisting or bending the torso, or pushing down on the injured spot, Mayo Clinic explains. However, pain, pressure or fullness in the center of the chest also may be signs of a heart attack and require urgent medical attention.
Treating broken ribs rarely requires surgery, and recovery takes place at home over a period of six or more weeks, MedlinePlus states. During the healing period, pain may be managed with ice packs, prescription medicine or over-the-counter medications. Ice packs should be wrapped tightly in cloth before placement on the injured spot, and for the first two days should be applied for 20 minutes per hour as long as the patient is awake. On all subsequent days, applying ice for 10 to 20 minutes three times per day is enough.
Prescription medicines are typically used for very strong pain, MedlinePlus notes, and patients should be sure not to drive or consume alcohol while taking them. To prevent side effects such as constipation and nausea, the medicines should be consumed along with food, and the patient should regularly consume foods rich in fiber and plenty of fluid. Over-the-counter medications should not be taken by patients within 24 hours of the injury. In patients with specific conditions such as high blood pressure or heart, liver or kidney disease, OTC medications should only be taken after consulting with the doctor.