The terms “fractured ribs,” “broken ribs” and “cracked ribs” are used interchangeably by most people. But generally speaking, a cracked rib is usually considered to be a rib that is fractured but not completely separated at the bone where the break has occurred.
Rib pain from a cracked rib can be quite intense. There are two main causes, which include:
Injury – Anytime the ribs are impacted with a great deal of force, a crack can occur. The most common reasons includes auto accidents and injuries related to athletic competition. It is especially common in American football because of the nature of the game. Contact happens often and at great force sometimes.
Exertion – In some cases, the ribs can become cracked due to pressure that is placed on them by lifting something too heavy. Doing the same motion over and over can also be a factor.
Those who have a severe cough can actually crack their ribs because of the force of the cough. This is not common, but it can happen.
It doesn’t take long to realize you may have cracked ribs. Ribcage pain is intense pain: some have said it compares to being stabbed or shot. Many individuals who have had fractured ribs say that it’s the worst pain that they have ever felt.
Trying to change clothes can be excruciating. Just breathing can be extremely distressing. Plus, cracked ribs can limit your ability to breathe normally, which can lead to pneumonia.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to get better. You just have to wait it out and let your body heal itself. Your doctor can prescribe pain medications to help you get through it.
This healing process can take from two weeks to two months, depending how badly the ribs are damaged.
Ribcage Pain and Heart Trouble
Because a fractured rib can feel somewhat like angina (the chest pain that accompanies a heart attack), it is important to make sure you get professional medical help as soon as pain begins. There is a distinct difference between rib pain and angina, but it’s best to let a doctor or trained medical personnel make the diagnosis.
If you feel a squeezing sensation in the chest area, there may be an issue with the heart, particularly if this is accompanied by numbness to the left arm. Other symptoms of a heart attack include jaw pain, shortness of breath, and perspiration.