How Do I Know if I Have a Rib Out vs Strained Muscle

Rib Injury or Muscle Pain

Not sure if you have a rib injury or a strained muscle? Chiropractor Dr. Troy Dreiling can help determine the cause of your pain. Arrange for your free consultation by calling our office. Zenaptic Chiropractic is located in Vancouver, Washington.

While it is ideal to speak with a professional healthcare provider regarding any injuries that you may have sustained, it is also ideal to consider whether or not you have strained your muscle or if it could be a broken rib. Both are painful, but one requires immediate medical care compared to another. Regardless, if you feel that something is out of place then it is essential that you seek the medical care that is required.

Broken Rib Signs and Symptoms

Broken ribs are more severe than strained muscles or bruised ribs. This is because the rib is out of place, the bone is broken, and will need to heal properly back in place. It is essential that an X-ray is taken to rule out the possibility of a break. In the event of having a broken rib, there are treatment options available.

Extreme pain, feeling breathless or unwell and having that area be extremely tender to touch then there could be an issue. If there is poking or protruding coming from the rib area, or you feel a sharp stab inside, then prompt medical attention is required. You want to ensure that the rib is not puncturing anything that it might come into contact with – including your internal organs.

Children and babies are less likely to have rib fractures or breaks due to having bones that are more elastic. Serious force would be needed for them to break one of their ribs. However, adults and seniors have a higher chance of fracturing or breaking one of the rib bones. This can be due to a fall, an accident of some sort or other injury that happens in the mid-section of the body.

Strained Muscles in the Ribs: Signs and Symptoms

Strained muscles are not generally a cause of concern or a medical necessity that needs immediate care. However, in order to get relief from the pain of the strained muscle, it is recommended that a healthcare provider is seen to provide the necessary treatment plan so that the pain is done, and the patient is able to resume normal everyday activities.

Signs of a bruised or strained muscle in the rib can include pain in the area, swelling, redness, bruising or even an open cut depending on the injury in the area. If any of these are noted, it is essential that you speak with a doctor. They can provide pain medication, as well as an anti-inflammatory so that the swelling goes down, taking pressure off the area and relieving some of the pain.

Those that play sports and even children are more likely to have a bruised or strained muscle in the rib area over those that do not. However, falling, slipping and other accidents can cause bruised or strained muscles in the ribs that require medical attention. There are ways to get relief from having this type of injury, and speaking with a healthcare provider regarding the treatment plan is the ideal way to go.

The Difference between the Two

There are differences between having a sprained muscle in the ribs, or a broken rib. A broken rib tends to be more painful, may or may not protrude and can cause extreme swelling and bruising. A muscle strain will have bruising, swelling and pain but it will not protrude and will be less severe.

Having a strained muscle will take a few weeks or days to heal depending on the severity. However, broken ribs may need a cast in place, and will take months depending on the age and general overall health of the person that has broken them.

It is recommended that while playing sports, the person wears protective gear so that this does not happen to the mid-region of the body. This can tear through the skin, but it can also puncture vital organs inside the body and cause internal bleeding which is a larger issue at hand.

It is important to speak with a healthcare provider if there is extreme pain, bruising or swelling of the rib cage area after something such as an injury or accident does occur. This can rule out serious injuries that would need to be medically provided for.

Treatment Plan for Both a Broken Rib and Strained Muscle

There are treatment plans available for both broken and strained muscles. Depending on the severity and the specific case, there may be a different treatment plan set in motion to ensure that the person receives adequate care of the rib area.

Broken ribs require a cast in the rib area, and for the person to be on strict rest for a few weeks. From then on, they can start doing more but are still on a restriction and will still need the cast.

At times, it can take a month or more for the rib to fully heal and be placed back to its original position. This can set the person back some, but it can provide them with a way to get the relief that they need. During this time, antibiotics, pain medicine, and anti-inflammatories will be prescribed to help combat pain and swelling, and any infections that might occur.

With a bruised rib, the treatment plan is less aggressive and the patient will need to be put on rest for a week or so. They will also be provided with a prescription for anti-inflammatories and pain medication to help combat the symptoms that might follow.


Seeking medical attention for either issue is essential. While either are not life-threatening, finding relief of the symptoms that come from both is required. In order to heal and get back to normal, everyday life, you will have to seek the help from us that can create a healing plan specifically for the injury that was sustained. It is important that you seek this help to ensure that you do not have underlying problems that might have occurred due to the injured rib.

Set up your FREE consultation with us today by calling 360-260-6903. We want to help you start living a better, healthier life today!