Musculoskeletal system

What Does Torn Rib Cage Feel Like? 4 Causes, 5 Symptoms, 8 Treatments

So what does torn rib cartilage feel like? Severe pain during inhalation is probably the most prevalent nuisance you will have to deal with. A torn rib cartilage, also known as Costochondral separation can be one of the most sensitive and the most challenging injuries to treat.

The rib cage as the name suggests is an enclosure made up of bones and cartilage whose function is to shield vital organs like the lungs, and the heart situated inside it.

It also provides support to the upper side of the body. The anatomy of the rib cage is such that there are 24 ribs altogether with 12 on each side. There are the middle sternum bone, the costal cartilage and the vertebral column at the back.

The cartilage is a tissue that’s firm, situated in the front part of the rib; which facilitates an easy expansion of the chest during inhalation. You cannot cast ribs as you would in the case of a dislocation in the arm or foot; this is because ribs have to move for the lungs to function properly.

When the ribs keep mobilizing during the processes of inhalation and exhalation, it hampers the healing process since the torn ribs don’t get to be reattached together. Despite the existence of the cartilage which helps in flexibility, the ribs can only stretch so much.

Exaggerated stretching at the point between the rib and the cartilage can cause a tear, which as mentioned above is hard to treat. Serious chest trauma can be caused by awkward falls, blows to the chest during brawls, contact sports and bad car accidents.

All these can cause a tear in the rib cartilage and cause rib fractures. Unfortunately, one or more of these violent occurrences are likely to befall an individual at least once in their lifetime.

It would be unpractical, to expect a teenage boy to not engage in a risky activity such as; climbing trees. This might lead to a fall, engaging in silly fights with their mates which might lead to a blow in the chest area, and engaging in contact sports which might lead to serious injury in the rib and chest area.

Rib injuries are less likely to occur in children though. This is because children have more elastic bones than adults. However, in the event a child is diagnosed with a rib injury, it is important to find out the exact cause; the possibility of child abuse should not be ruled out in such a case.

Who Is Likely to Be Affected?

what does torn rib cartilage feel like
What does torn rib cartilage feel like
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Before delving into symptoms and remedies for this affliction, it is important to know the people that are most likely to suffer from a torn rib cage. People who are most susceptible to this affliction include:

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Elderly People:

Senior citizens or elderly people are at a greater risk since degenerative changes occur to the ribs and cartilage as one grows older.

These degenerative changes cause the rib cage to weaken and to become susceptible to injury. Even minor incidents such as minor falls, or small jerks to the upper side of the body, may cause an injury to the rib cartilage.

Sportsmen and Women:

People involved in contact sports such as soccer, football, rugby, volleyball, and boxing are more likely to suffer from injuries in the mid-section than regular non-sporting people.

Though some sporting disciplines such as American football; provide for body protection gear, it does not fully protect the athletes from injury.

It is said that American footballers sustain blows that are equivalent to severe car crashes in every game, this means that even with protective gear, athletes are still vulnerable to injury, especially in the rib section.

Chronic Smokers:

People who can’t keep the cigarette stick away are vulnerable to rib cartilage tear. This is because the cigarette smoke brings about violent coughing episodes that are persistent. Persistent, forceful coughing can cause considerable damage to the rib cartilage.

Seatbelt Averse People:

Seatbelts exist to protect an individual from a harmful movement that may result during a collision or an emergency stop. So if you are one of those people, who view the wearing of seatbelts as more of a casual suggestion than a serious safety measure, then you are likely to suffer from severe rib cartilage injury sooner rather than later.

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Symptoms of a Rib Cartilage Tear:

Now that we know who is more likely to suffer from a rib cartilage tear let’s look at some of the symptoms of a torn rib cartilage. These symptoms manifest soon after the occurrence of the injury.

Sharp Pain:

This sharp pain occurs right at the point of the cartilage tear. You are likely going to suffer from constant pain at least for a few weeks depending on the intensity of the trauma.

Popping Sounds:

In severe cases, there is likely to be popping, clicking, or grinding sounds during instances of deep inhalation. This is likely to be accompanied by sharp pain.

Sensitivity to Body Movement:

A rib cage tear can restrict you from living your day to day life without annoyance. Any chest movement, inhalation and exhalation, coughing and sneezing will trigger sharp pain. This affliction can also dampen your mood since even a gentle laugh can trigger sharp pain in the affected area.

Swelling and Bruising:

There might be bruising if the injury was occasioned by a sharp blow to the chest. A blunt force induced injury may cause significant swelling in the affected area.

Restricted Breathing:

The process of inhalation and exhalation involves the movement of the ribcage. This triggers a lot of pain around the area of the cartilage tear. This pain will force the patient to take shallow breaths as they try to avoid the pain brought about by deep breathing.

How a Torn Rib Cartilage is Diagnosed:

Any sensible person who experiences these symptoms after going through any kind of chest trauma will probably seek the services of a healthcare provider. So how will this healthcare provider diagnose the condition? You might ask.

Medical History:

The physician will probably ask to see your medical records to see if there are past instances of similar injury.

Pressing Affected Area:

When ribs are broken or fractured, severe pain is triggered during instances of coughing, laughing or deep breathing. This makes the injured area tender when the physician presses it.


A chest x-ray will not necessarily be used to diagnose the fracture itself, the main purpose for a chest x-ray would be to check for any complications that may have been caused by the trauma to the chest and rib cage.

Chest Examination:

A healthcare provider may also use a stethoscope to listen for any popping or grinding sounds that may come from the ribcage area. If these sounds are present, it will confirm the existence of a rib cartilage tear.

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Remedies for a Torn Rib Cartilage:

We now know the people who are most likely to suffer from this affliction. We also know the symptoms of the affliction as well as how it may be diagnosed. It is now time to have a look at some of the remedies available. Some of the remedies include;

Avoid Strain:

Sufficient rest is required for you to be on the road to a full recovery from the rib cartilage tear. It is therefore wise to stay away from any strenuous activity since this can slow down the healing process.

Apply Cold Compress:

When the injury occurs, ice the area of the injury immediately. This will reduce the inflammation and the swelling. Persist with the ice press for at least 10 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.

Put on a Rib Cage Belt:

A rib cage belt is an elastic belt designed to engulf the chest wall. It will help prevent exaggerated expansion of the chest wall while breathing, sneezing, coughing and laughing. This will eliminate the need for a patient to limit their breathing to avoid pain.

Alternate Hot and Cold Compress:

A day after the injury, it is advisable to begin alternating hot and cold compresses on the affected area. This helps facilitate blood flow around the torn rib cartilage area which hastens the healing process.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs:

Anti-inflammatory analgesic medicine is great for checking the pain caused by the rib cartilage tear. This medicine will also work to reduce the swelling. Consult a doctor before taking this medicine though.

Gentle Exercise:

A qualified physical therapist will help you manage the pain while also bringing back normalcy in the affected area through gentle exercises. Gentle exercises will help you learn how to resume normal activity without aggravating the symptoms.


This is a home remedy that might work like a charm. A cup of ginger tea taken on a daily basis may bring lasting positive effects. Ginger has a compound called gingerols which quells inflammation and pain caused by the rib cartilage injury.

Homoeopathy Drugs:

After the initial pain subsides, switch to homoeopathic drugs such as Arnica and Ruta. They will ease the pain as well as the swelling.

By now, you must have got answer to your question, what does torn rib cartilage feel like, and also about its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and remedies.


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