Our rib cage is a very delicate structure with a sole purpose of protecting all of our vital internal organs, giving our body shape at the same time. Our ribcage consists of twelve bones which are curved and paired with another twelve bones, called ribs. Also, an elongated T-shaped bone called sternum keeps the ribs fixated. Other parts of our ribcage involve twelve thoracic vertebrae, intercostal muscles and costal cartilages.
Usually, our ribcage gets painful and bruised due to direct injury affecting the area. However, there are cases when aggressive and strong coughing can lead to bruising in the ribcage area.
Our Ribs and the Breathing Process
During the breathing process, our thorax expands and contracts as necessary, as our diaphragm moves, separating our chest from our abdomen. Since our thorax expands and contracts, it also presses our lungs. Therefore, our inhalation is enabled through expanding of our ribcage and, thereby, our whole chest cavity. While we exhale, the opposite happens; our ribcage contracts, forcing the air upwards, contracting our lungs.
Bruising of the Ribs by Coughing
Our breathing takes place without our volition or conscious control. However, sometimes, our body gets affected by certain substances which irritate it. Then, our breathing is affected, since the body gives its best to expel the harmful irritants. This is why we cough repetitively. These contractions may hurt our ribs, causing them to become bruised or even cracked.
Besides irritants, bronchitis, pleurisy, pneumonia, whooping cough or other kinds of respiratory infections can lead to repetitive, strong coughing. During these bouts, those who have thinner or more fragile bones, may suffer from bruising or fracture more easily. Thus, people with arthritis, osteoporosis or other such conditions are more likely to experience these problems.
Once you have a bruised rib or ribs, you are bound to feel it or notice certain symptoms such as pain during movement of the torso, bruises appearing on the surface of the ribs or pain during breathing.
Possible Treatment of Bruised Ribs
Before any treatment can take place, your doctor needs to examine your ribcage and the surrounding area, diagnosing the cause behind the bruising or the fracture. X-rays, or other types of scans might be necessary during this process.
The usual treatment involves resting and taking painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Sometimes, if the pain seems to be quite strong, your doctor may give you steroids. Ice packs or heat pads are very useful in pain removal as well.
On the other hand, if an infection is causing your ribcage pain and bruising, you need to treat it before it starts to progress. Your bouts of coughing need to stop through adequate treatment too. Therefore, never ignore bruised ribs and make sure your seek treatment as soon as possible.