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Can You Dislocate a Rib?

Updated on April 26, 2016
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently studying lab sciences. She enjoys researching various health topics and writing about her findings.

"Can you dislocate a rib?" The answer is yes and it is a very common injury. The spinal column located at the posterior portion of the body is comprised of 33 vertebrae bones. The 12 thoracic vertebrae bones are connected to the ribs, which are also connected to the sternum located at the anterior part of the body or the chest area. Except for the two lower ribs connected to the spinal column also known as floating ribs.

Dislocated rib is not a rare condition

Dislocation can happen to one or more ribs due to various factors. However, the more common reported injuries are bruised ribs. When a rib is dislocated, the patient can be in extreme pain even if he or she only trying to breathe. Hence, the patient will have difficulty even to do the slightest muscle action. Apart from severe pain, any dislocated rib or ribs can be perilous to health especially if it involves the entire cross section of the bone.

Not only can you dislocate a rib, it can also be manipulated back in position. A rib can also be accidentally moved into an aberrant position even with the bones still attached. This is partial rib dislocation. On the other hand subluxation occurs when one of the ribs is unnaturally contained into its socket. This is a painful situation but is not a severe problem or dislocation. Nevertheless, the patient may require an emergency treatment the same way a full dislocation is managed.

Can You Dislocate a Rib?
Can You Dislocate a Rib? | Source

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Treatment for rib dislocation

A dislocated rib can be popped back in place. The way this is done can be extremely painful to the patient and may need to be administered with a strong sedative. When a person has dislocated rib, even the slightest movement of the chest to breathe can be unbearable. Immediate treatment is vital. The patient’s upper torso may be wrapped with an elastic bandage as soon as the rib has been placed back into position.

The bandage can provide support to the joint while it heals. It is seldom for an individual to require surgical procedure to manage a dislocated rib. In most cases, medication to manage pain is provided to the patient. Pain management is necessary because of the affected area that needs time to heal following the trauma or injury. Alleviation of pain is vital in the overall health situation of the person depending on the joint that was affected as well as the extent of injury.

A case of dislocated rib during pregnancy

Can you dislocate a rib if you are pregnant? Some pregnant mothers may experience subluxated or dislocated ribs. Contrary to what some people may assume this is not due to the baby’s frequent kicking. Even as early as four months of pregnancy, a pregnant woman may possibly have some pain near the rib cage or below the chest that starts to hurt even more as time goes. This kind of pain may be mistaken as simply a pregnancy symptom that will eventually go away. Make sure to have the OB gynecologist assess the problem immediately.

Can You Dislocate a Rib? : Treatment for rib dislocation
Can You Dislocate a Rib? : Treatment for rib dislocation | Source

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Pregnancy hormone may cause rib dislocation

During the first pregnancy of some women, their lower ribs may begin to change form and curve out to create enough space for the developing fetus. In this case, the ribs do not curve back in. Dislocated ribs may possibly occur because of the overproduction in the corpus luteum of a polypeptide hormone called relaxin in pregnant women. It causes the cervix and pelvic ligaments to relax while pregnant, particularly during delivery. However, the excessive levels of relaxin can cause severe rib pain in some pregnant women. An obstetric physical therapist can help with this concern.

The therapist can tell if there is a torn ligament or other bone injury that involves the ribs. The therapist can treat this problem with certain gentle maneuvering to pop the ribs back in position. Unfortunately not only can you dislocate a rib, if the ligament is torn and nothing else can hold the rib in place, it can pop back out for some women even after manipulating the rib back into place. Another session of rib manipulation may be done if the problem ever comes up again. For some women with this problem, they may wind up needing to visit an obstetric physical therapist regularly.

In one particular rib dislocation case, it was internal. In this case, even if you use your hands to trace the ribs, the dislocation may not be apparent. The pregnant woman was required to wear an orthopedic rib brace daily. This type of brace may seem inconvenient to wear twenty-four hours a day but it is actually beneficial and can help alleviate rib pain. During the latter part of her third trimester, the therapist needed to make the rib adjustments frequently. The number of ribs affected also increased as the pregnancy progressed. It came to a point that the therapist needed to tell the woman that there was nothing more he could do because the ligament had become so ineffective. All she was able to do was endure the pain and wait for her delivery date.

When the delivery date came, her pain on the ribs totally vanished. At the time she was admitted to deliver her baby, she was wearing her rib brace. After delivery, she no longer needed the brace. Apparently, the hormone responsible for her rib pain reduced its levels to a point that alleviated her rib condition. She never needed the brace after her delivery and even while she took care of the baby at home. It seems that after the baby came out the ribs are no longer being pushed because of the size of the baby in her tummy. This relieved her from the intense pain she experienced when she was pregnant.

Be well informed

More often than not, rib pain is merely part of a pregnancy and is not life-threatening to both the mother and the child. The best kind of treatment in this case is to be properly informed. In this way, the patient can help herself deal with the symptoms and promote comfort. She can also put any fear to rest because she knows exactly what is happening to her body and her baby.


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