T Nation

Rib injury

Has anyone ever injured there ribs before? To make a long story short, about six months ago I strained a muscle in my upperback. I then proceeded to hurt it worse by playing golf. For the last six months I have been unable to return to normal lifting because of this injury. I saw a new chiropractor last week and he said I have three displaced ribs in my back. He reset them and I feel much better already. Any recommendations on a good routine to ease myself back into the gym? Does anyone have any good trunk strengthening excercises? Any advice is much appreciated, thanks!

Go in the archives of t-mag and type in Real Abs. It was written by coach Davies and it is all about developing the torso.

Hey Mizzoudawg,
i had the exact same injury about 10 years ago in high school when i fell on my side on a football helmet during a drill. it was a pretty disgusting injury - when i twisted my torso to the right, you could see three bumps protruding from my side. i couldn’t hardly move because the intercostal muscles were completely stiff and my lower back experienced painful spasms. after i had the chiro "re"place my ribs, i went to see an acupuncturist/shiatsu massage therapist to ease the spasms and pain in that area. because the muscles involved in such an injury are ones not classically used to train with but are involved with most lifts, i would suggest ice treatment (1O mins on, 10 mins or more off) and heat/cold treatment once any swelling has disappeared (about 48 hours after any chiropractic adjustments). also, look into various forms of massage or ART if its a soft tissue injury to coax the area to recover. this is very crucial since its difficult to train this area specifically when recovering from such an injury. and, even though this may go against volumes of training dogma, i’ve always thought that 6-pack would do handedly in such a time of recovery and rehabilitation.

Thanks for the replies guys.

Speed- I checked out Coach Davies “Real Abs” article and it sounds very interesting. I think for the time being in may be to painful with this injury. For the future though I will add some of these excercises into my ab routine. I have come to realize how important your core is to overall strength as well as injury prevention.

Big D- I actually saw ART practitioner for 12 sessions. It baffles me though that she was unable to recognize I had three displaced ribs during treatment. Maybe she did not know what she was doing with the ART either? I already have felt improvements after two sessions with my new chiro, but he does not practice ART. This injury occured six months ago so I figured at this point the inflammation would be gone. However, my chiro said I still have considerable inflamation, so I have resumed icing 1-2x’s/day. Did you have any tingling in your fingers with your injury? I think when my ribs shifted, they may have been pushing on a nerve. As for the acupuncture/massage, this will be my next step if I dont get better soon. This is the most frustratiing injury I have ever experienced.

Any other thoughts? Thanks again.

How much time have you taken off so far? Do you think you might just need to take a little more time off?


I have had a few cracked ribs, 1 displaced rib, bruise and and torn intercostal cartilage playing football (mostly getting hit by O-lineman)…so i feel your pain literally.

The best thing that helped me was rest, which I should have taken more of, it would have healed twice as fast. Its the inlflamation that takes forever to heal. Short of a cortisone shot (which they won’t give you in the ribs) rest is the only remedy for the inflamation.

Instead of hitting the gym I hit the pool in between games, running laps with the floating vest on.

The one “aid” that did help was one of wraps like a Rehband back support. I put one on and pulled it up high above my abs. It helped to compress the ribs a bit and support my torso so the inflamation could go down. Not comfortable but it seemed to do the trick.


i would continue to keep with the ice treatments to control the inflammation, but if its becoming unbearable, you may want to take some ibuprofen to prevent the swelling. if you’ve had this for 6 months and re-aggravated the injury from golfing, you’re setting yourself up for chronic and unforgiving pain throughout your entire core. if the injury is particularly movement-sensitive, i would suggest that you rest your body as much as you can while you recover.
even though your ART pratitioner couldn’t spot your displaced ribs (a real shame!) i would suggest going back to ART (depending on the extent of soft tissue damage you’ve experienced) and massage therapy (to relax the muscle spasms you may be experiencing), as well as acupuncture (it really helped me to relax overall). since you cannot exercise these muscles directly without the risk of greater inflammation, these methods are great ways to recover from something like a rib injury. also see if you can find a orthopedic surgeon/chiro/massage therapist that uses suction cups to massage your stiff mid-lower back muscles. that really helped me when i was rehabing.
lastly, i didn’t feel any tingling in any parts of my body from my injuries, but if you are, get a referral from your family doc to see a neurologist to diagnose your problem. this is absolutely crucial in my opinion - that impinged nerve can not only lead to a lot of pain and aggravation, but could inhibit movement and weaken the connecting musculature from the spine to your fingertips.
i’ll see what else i can dig up. good luck with the rehab!

Thanks for all the advice guys. Thus far, I have taken a good four months off of training.
Within that four months I have tried several different approaches: light lifting, just cardio + stretching, and no activity at all. I got an MRI about a month ago and the doc said everything looked fine. It only make since that I was not getting better within this time since I had three ribs out of place!

The three sessions I have had with my new Chiro. have been great though. So far, the pain seems to be going away as well as most of the tingling. Do you guys think I should just keep resting until I can feel NO pain or tingling? The Chiro. said I still have inflammation which may be why I have not completely healed. This backs up what you were saying about the inflammation Heavysprout. I continue to ice for 20 min 2x?s/day and take Ibuprofen for the inflammation.

Heaveysprout- I looked at one of the Rehband back supports and they are kind of pricey. With that said, I would buy one in a second if it will help. One question for you Heavysprout, did you train at all with this back support on? It seems to me that it may useful to train with for a while to prevent the ribs from shifting again. If not, how much did you wear it? Through out the whole day?

BigD- Maybe I will look for a new ART practitioner. I am just disappointed I went to one 12 times and did not see improvement. At this point, I don?t know if the soft tissue is still injured or not. I will also look into this suction cup method you say some use. Why do you think this is such an effective method for this type of injury?

Thanks again for the help guys! You have given me a new found hope that I will be able to lift again eventually.

I was just using their supports as an example…I know the calf support is $$$ but I needed something that really worked.
As for the back support/wrap, I bought a generic yet sturdy one at my local sports store.
I wore it throughout the day, back when I was standing all day and moving about alot at work.
I wasn’t lifting a lot then, mostly legs, as I was playing football 1-2 nights a week. But I had it on while I lifted legs (squats/press, etc) and when I played…which is why it took 4-5 months to heal. I was getting hit constantly and torquing my torso a lot.

If the new Chiro is making things better and their suggestions are working do WHATEVER they tell you.

As for taking it easy, it’s not a sore muscle or whatever, it’s INJURED. Injuries require rest to heal, normal soreness doesn’t.

We will all pay later on for playing through injuries.

Remember the old coaching question,“Are you hurt or are you injured?” You are injured so let it heal or it will nag you a LONG time.

i agree with heavysprout on the chiro and resting. if you’re feeling better and regaining mobility without pain from the suggestions from the chiro, continue doing it. what your chiro is suggesting and the treatment you’re getting seems like it’s improving your injury. and if it is an injury that can only be healed with rest, make sure you get that rest. it may be difficult to stay sedentary, but it may be the best suggestion if no other options provide a better answer.

for the tingling in your fingers, if the swelling is going down then we can assume (just slightly) that the inflammation may have been from pinched nerves extending from the spinal cord to your extremities. in this case, do whatever it takes to control the inflammation and find out preventative ways to ensure it does not reoccur. however, if your initial rib displacement caused tearing, scarring, or a clot, this may be what is causing the tingling. in this case, you may need surgery to clear any obstructing tissues from your nerves. if the tingling is going away, i wouldn’t worry too much about any nerve damage, just temporary pinching. but if it remains after you control the inflammation, see your doc and get a referral to a neurologist.

and as for those suction cups, they basically stretched out the skin and muscles in my rib cage - i had big perfectly circular hickeys all over the back of my rib cage for a week. since those muscles are difficult to stretch, chiros use the method to help relax the muscles and promote circulation. see if your chiro suggests that for you if you are still experiencing spasms.

keep us updated and good luck with rehab.