Acute Rib Joint Sprain


What is an Acute Rib Sprain?

Your thoracic spine is unique in the fact that your ribs articulate with the vertebrae. Your ribs increase the stability of your thoracic spine and also are important for protection of your vital organs. There are two different types of joints between your ribs and your vertebrae:

1. Costotransverse Joint: between your rib and transverse process of your spine. This joint sits out laterally from your spine.

2. Costovertebral Joint: between your rib and body of your thoracic vertebrae. This joint is more central towards the spine.

Just like any other joint in the body, these joints can be sprained if you move the wrong way. Rib joint sprains can arise most commonly from twisting, reaching or bending.


Symptoms of an Acute Rib Joint Sprain:

Symptoms of an acute rib joint sprain can come on either very suddenly or over time, and can include:

• Pain on one side of your thoracic spine that is relatively easy to localise
• Sharp pain with bending, twisting, taking a deep breath or sneezing
• Dull ache at rest
• Pain that radiates into your shoulder, arm or chest
• Increased pain with arm movements
• Stiffness in your thoracic spine


Assessment of an Acute Rib Joint Sprain:

Your All Care Physiotherapist will ask you a series of questions relating to the onset, cause, and behaviour of your thoracic pain. They will then complete a comprehensive assessment of your thoracic spine, neck and shoulders, which can include:

• Posture
• Muscle bulk
• Range of movement of your thoracic spine and neck
• Degree of movement of the individual joints in your thoracic spine, neck and perhaps shoulder
• Neck muscle strength
• Shoulder blade muscle strength
• Arm strength and sensation


Treatment for Thoracic Pain:

Luckily, physiotherapy is very effective for acute rib joint sprains. Your All Care Physiotherapist will provide you with an effective treatment plan that may include:

• Advice and education on your condition
• Postural taping
• Ultrasound
• Soft tissue releases
• Dry needling
• Joint mobilizations and manipulations
• Heat therapy
• Strengthening exercises for your shoulder blade and neck muscles
• Range of movement exercises for your neck and thoracic spine
• Postural education and retraining


What Can You Do to Help?

1. Stopping aggravating activities:

• This gives your joint time to rest and heal.
• It is important to make sure that when you re-commence the activity that it is pain-free.

2. Gentle Deep Breathing:

• This encourages good lung expansion and air entry to prevent further complications
• Take a slow, gentle deep breath in, feeling your ribs expand and spread as you breathe in.
• Breathe in as deeply as you comfortably can (i.e. without getting a sharp pain).
• Hold 5s.
• Repeat 3-4 times.


To get control of your thoracic pain, call All Care Physiotherapy today on 1300 291 133 and get back to the activities you enjoy!