Rib cage pain can be a common occurrence for many people and can be presented in a number of ways. Most people don’t realize that just as easily as their mid back spine may need to be adjusted, the ribs may also need to be addressed, depending on what symptoms there are.
Rib pain may be sharp, dull, achy, or stinging and can be felt at the chest over the breast bone, or in the mid back where the ribs meet the spine. It may also be a shooting pain across the rib cage on either side. With rib pain being more common than some may realize, it is often asked, “What causes the ribs to need to be adjusted?”
Since the ribs create a joint with the vertebrae in the back, there may be pain that is due to subluxations or misalignments of those joints. It is usually a focal pain where the subluxation occurs and can be tender to the touch.
A common cause of rib subluxations includes poor posture such as rounded shoulders or sitting in an awkward position for an extended amount of time. When sitting with improper posture, it can push or pull the ribs out of their normal position and you may notice pain when taking a deep breath in.
An additional common source of rib subluxations can be from pregnancy and the biomechanical changes that occur in the pregnant women’s abdomen and pelvis. Coughing and sneezing may also apply excessive force on the ribs, which may lead to subluxations.
Another cause of rib pain and subluxations include trauma. Any impact to the rib cage can cause a sprain or strain to the ribs and surrounding tissues. Trauma may include motor vehicle accidents, sport injuries, or falls. A chiropractor can assess the rib cage first to assess if there is the possibility of a fracture from trauma or a sprain or strain that may be treated conservatively.
Nerve irritation can be one more source of rib pain. The nerves that travel between the ribs are known as intercostal nerves. They start from the spine and cross the entire rib cage and end at the sternum.
When there is a subluxation of the ribs where they meet the spine, irritation of the nerve can occur. Shingles, which is a viral infection that can cause a blister-like outbreak on the skin over a rib, can be another cause of irritation to the intercostal nerves.
It should not be forgotten that organs such as the heart or lungs can cause rib pain as well, and it is important to rule out any medical emergency, such as a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. Your chiropractor is trained to diagnose the differing reasons for rib pain and can determine whether chiropractic care can help with your rib pain.
Some of the treatments a chiropractor can offer for rib pain include gentle chiropractic adjustments of the mid back spine and rib cage, ultrasound therapy, interferential therapy, heat, and/or ice. Specific stretching or postural exercises may also be prescribed to help with healing and recovery at home.
Chiropractic care can be especially beneficial for certain causes of rib pain and patients may find significant relief in a short amount of time. Chiropractic is safe for all ages, so if a child has rib pain your chiropractor can easily assess them.