Close look on a rib stress fracture

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A rib stress fracture can occur in different athletes, but quite common in certain sports and activities including dancing, rowing, baseball, windsurfing and backpacking. The stress fractures occur once bone could not endure the accumulated stress during a particular activity. Remember that a stress fracture is the outcome of repetitive low-impact injury resulting to cumulative damage to the bone.

Most of the overuse injuries involve the lower extremities. The uncommon types affect the upper extremities including the rib cage.

What are the indications of a rib stress fracture?

A rib stress fracture can be hard to diagnose and it often takes time to determine the precise cause of the pain. The usual symptom of a rib stress fracture is the gradually intensifying pain directly over the site of injury.

Rib stress fracture
The usual symptom of a rib stress fracture is the gradually intensifying pain directly over the site of injury.

An individual usually experiences pain that is focal along with broader symptoms of pain that are typically linked with other conditions. Take note that the pain becomes worse during exertion, coughing or deep breathing.

An analysis of a rib stress fracture can be hard to verify with an X-ray. An X-ray often reveals a normal result among those who have a stress fracture. Other tests might be carried out to confirm a diagnosis such as an MRI or bone scan.

The advantage of a bone scan is that it is easily carried out and interpreted. As for an MRI, it is harder to perform and might reveal other sources of pain including inflammation of the soft tissues.

A rib stress fracture is often confused with other conditions involving the rib cage. The other usual causes of rib pain among athletes include muscles strains of the intercostal muscles and costochondritis. Prompt treatment of these conditions is the same which allows the rib to rest and allow the injury to heal.


Even though frustrating, there is little that can be done in managing a rib stress fracture. Allowing the ribs time to heal and avoiding exertion will enable the bone to recover and ensure that the injury will fully heal. Resuming activity early before full healing takes place can result to lengthy symptoms of pain.

It is sad to note that there is no way to know for sure when an injury can fully recover, but most rib stress fractures heal within 3 months but some can take up to 6 months or longer if the ribs are not given time to fully rest. Oftentimes, the individual can perform other activities without aggravating the healing process of the fracture.

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