Rib Cartilage Injury


Rib cartilage injury is a painful condition. The cartilage injury results in severe pain with deep breaths, especially when coughing. It is essential to understand the function of our ribcage, how it can be injured, and how it can be treated before we proceed with Rib Cartilage Injury.
There are various causes of Rib Cartilage Injury as well as specific Risk Factors associated with it.

Rib Cartilage Injury

How The Ribcage Is Formed

The rib cage consists of 24 ribs, costal cartilages, the breastbone (or sternum) and the spine (or vertebral column). All ribs are attached to the spine to the thoracic vertebrae. The first seven pairs of ribs 1 through 7 are each connected directly to the breastbone or sternum by costal cartilage, and therefore called “true” ribs. Ribs 8 through 10 are called the “false” ribs because they are not directly attached to the sternum but instead attach to the costal cartilage of the 7th rib above. The last two pairs of ribs are called “floating” ribs since they are only attached to the vertebrae but not to the breastbone.
The ribcage has two vital purposes. Firstly, it serves as a protective fence around the heart, lungs, and liver. Secondly, it provides strength and support to the thoracic vertebrae.

What Causes It?

Rib Cartilage Injury can be caused by a variety of conditions that include but are not limited to:

  • Sports injury due to constant pressure on the rib cage especially in sports that require vigorous swinging of the arms or sudden jerking of the chest.
  • Work injury due to the direct impact of heavy equipment on the wall of the chest causing fracture or dislocation of the rib cartilage.
  • Car injury which occurs during high impact accidents.
  • Domestic fall following direct trauma on the front of the rib cage.
  • Fracture or dislocation which results from direct blows to the chest by solid objects.
  • Forceful coughing in which the ribs separate from its attachment.
  • People suffering from Rib Cartilage Injury often feel pain with deep breaths, pain with coughing and pain with sneezing.

A medical condition associated with rib cartilage injury known as Costochondritis is characterised by the inflammation of the costal cartilage and could result in pain that usually worsens with movement and exertion. The affected individual is likely to feel chest pain with deep breaths. The affected person will also experience pain with coughing or pain with sneezing due to the vigorous motions these actions have on moving the ribs in the torso.
Some affected individuals may experience muscle spasms in the area of the ribcage. In severe cases, the ribcage may be deformed, resulting in pain with coughing and sneezing.


A direct injury to the chest can crack or break a rib or harm the cartilage attached to the rib. Symptoms of a fractured or bruised rib include:

  • Sharp, severe pain in the area of the injury.
  • Pain with deep breaths that gets worse while breathing deeply.
  • Pain with coughing.
  • Pain with sneezing.
  • Pain that gets worse when you press or lie on the injured area.
Rib Cartilage Injury


In most cases, the treatment for Rib Cartilage Injury is pain management with medication therapy. Medication with drugs like Ibuprofen or NSAIDS is used to treat pain and inflammation.
For severe cases, three initial injections of an intercostal nerve block with local anesthetics and corticosteroids have been proven to treat pain. If the pain relief lasts for 4 to 6 months, follow-up injections may be given every six months (however consult your GP for this treatment if conservative management proves ineffective).
Complete recovery from Rib Cartilage Injury is approximately six months because the cartilages are slow to heal since they receive little blood supply. It is advised that you rest properly and avoid strenuous activities to allow the body to reduce the inflammation of the cartilage and heal properly.