How to tell if you dislocated a rib and how to put it back in place

dislocated ribTake a deep breath.  Does it hurt?  When you inhale does it feel like something around your shoulder blade is catching?  Can’t take the full breath?  If all of these are true then it’s highly likely you’ve either slightly or fully dislocated a rib.  

My most recent dislocated rib adventure

I’ve done this several times in my life.  It’s for stupid reasons like sleeping wrong or sneezing too hard.  But this time around, it was from boxing.  It happened on a Sunday, I was feeling good.  All week I was was jazzed about punching a heavy bag that recently purchased.  

Now I have never boxed, played boxed, or practiced boxing in my entire life.  So, I did what any normal rational human being does these days, watch YouTube for pointers.  Now I’m throwing a jab, a jab-jab.  Then a 1-2.  Then 1-2-3. That three (a left hook) shook me so much that I stopped to shake it out.  Once shook, I kept going.  Big Smiles here.  

The next morning I woke up in PAIN.  My left chest and back freaking hurt.  So I did what any rational normal human being would do, I ignored it and went to work.  While working I couldn’t get comfortable.  I’m no stranger to soreness but this was a different.  On my last massage session of the day, I thought to myself, maybe I have pulled a rib.  I did the tests as I mentioned at the start of this post and sure enough I pulled a rib.  I could barely get a half breath in without filling some sort of discomfort.  

Just remember, motion is lotion

It was 730 at night and there was nothing I could do for it then except some home remedies.  I went home, took a hot shower and rolled my shoulder around in the hot water.  After the shower I put Biofreeze all over the affected areas, stretched my entire body because I didn’t want other areas to compensate and tighten up because of it.  Ended that by laying on a foam roller with my hands behind my head.  Finally went to bed.  

I woke up feeling better.  My pain had been reduced to a single spot.  I did some cardio to keep my body warm and loose before work.  I worked and immediately headed to the Chiropractor after. He knew right away what to do and said it’s never a good idea to wait too long between dislocating the rib and putting it back in place.  He said the rib will naturally go back in place if you do the stretching, foam rolling, adjustments, exercise, massage but, if you don’t do anything, you’re more than likely to weaken the attachment point.  Then something like this could happen a lot more often.  He did deep massage with me standing then laying down to see where the dislocation was then he worked his chiropractic magic.  

I went home.  Took a hot shower.  Biofreezed my body.  I DIDN’T stretch because I wanted the adjustment to take.  I took two Advil and went to sleep.  If you don’t know, the body repairs itself during sleep.  That’s why it’s important to get as much sleep as possible when you’re sick or injured.  The next morning, I felt about 95% better.  That day I went about my normal routine which is heavy lifting and full day of giving massages. 

Start to finish

It took me 2 days to resolve my dislocated rib problem.  Normally, I would get a massage then an adjustment. It’s the holiday season and I’m super duper busy at work that I just didn’t have time to get a massage not to mention, my massage therapists were booked up too. My Chiropractor was perfect. He’s quick and had late hours.  Much appreciated.  I did follow up with a massage the following weekend because knots decided to take up residency along my shoulder blades.  After the massage I was back to new.  Moral of the story is play hard, work hard and have a back up plan.  PEACE!


Hi. I’m Felicia. I’ve made a 20+ year career of massage and bodywork. And, I still love it. I also enjoy writing, playing music, photography, cooking, baking and painting. All of which I’m not very good at. I’m also a daily bike commuter.

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