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The diagnosis and treatment of broken ribs

You may have heard that there is nothing you can do about broken ribs, but that doesn’t help with the pain, discomfort and impact on your life.

If you suffer this injury, such as the result of a collision in the workplace, it’s critical to seek medical attention. Your doctor can explain your injury, treatment options and what to expect in the days and weeks to come.

The diagnosis of broken ribs typically starts with an in-office exam. From there, your doctor will use the following imaging tests to better understand your injury:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Bone scan

An X-ray is most common, as it allows your doctor to inspect your ribs for all types of damage, including minor fractures. Also, it can help diagnose a collapsed lung, which is another health concern depending on the type of accident.

If you’re diagnosed with broken ribs, you then need to implement a treatment plan. Even though your ribs are likely to heal on their own within six to eight weeks, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want during that time. Here are some things to discuss with your doctor:

  • Restricted activity: Continuing to work and play like you always have is a mistake, as it can slow down the recovery process and cause additional damage. It’s critical to rest your injury during the recovery stage.
  • Medication: For example, broken ribs often result in pain when you breathe, so pain medication can help.
  • Therapy: Once your pain subsides, your doctor may want you to partake in breathing exercises to promote better health. Shallow breathing for an extended period of time increases the risk of pneumonia.

Unlike other types of fractures, surgery isn’t typically an option for treating broken ribs. Instead, you need to rest the injury and let it heal over time.

Depending on your profession, your broken ribs may make it impossible to do your job as you recover. For instance, a construction worker or professional mover won’t be able to work, as the job is too physically demanding.

If you suffered your injury at work, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. This allows you to receive money while your broken ribs heal and until you can return to work full-time.

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