If you’ve ever had a rib out of alignment, you know well the extreme pain it can cause. Every breath can be excruciating. Movement and laughing can also be very painful. It can be located in the back, side, or front on of the ribcage. It is often confused with other conditions such as gastro esophageal reflux disease, a heart condition, pleurisy, or heartburn. The area is usually very tender and sometimes the area will swell and a lump will form over the joint. This is actually more common than one might think. With the ever-increasing rates of sedentary lifestyles, desk jobs, and electronics, poor posture is a huge contributor to ribs becoming misaligned. Chiropractic care has been proven to be a very effective treatment for this painful condition.

Structure of the ribcage

Many people believe that the ribcage is a stationary skeletal structure that houses and protects the heart, lungs, and other internal organs. That is only partly true. Others are often surprised how wide your rib cage expends your body.

The ribcage is actually somewhat flexible. Note how the chest expands when inhaling. This is because each rib is attached to the spine by three joints in the back, and to the breastbone by one joint in the front. These joints are small but do allow some movement or flexing so that the ribs do not impair breathing, instead, they rise and fall with each breath. This is why poor posture is often a huge contributor to rib misalignment and impaired breathing.

These rib joints can become inflamed and that is where the problems start. Because breathing is an involuntary response – and quite necessary for life – it is impossible to avoid movement in these joints. When there is inflammation in one or several, it can be unbearable. When proper breathing is impaired due to a misaligned rib, it can cause more inflammation within the joint.

What causes a rib misalignment?

There are any number of reasons for a misaligned rib. Some may experience it by doing simple, everyday tasks like putting dishes in the dishwasher or working at the computer. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Extreme sneezing or coughing– Excessive or severe coughing such as is associated with bronchitis or pneumonia puts a great deal of strain on the ribcage. However, even coughing due to a common cold can add enough stress to cause the rib to dislocate. Sneezing very hard can also cause it. Often the illness associated with repetitive coughing and sneezing can make a person more susceptible to rib misalignment due to the weakened state of the muscles.
  • Excessive vomiting– Much like sneezing or coughing, vomiting can also cause this condition. While it does not necessarily involve the lungs, the convulsive action of vomiting can cause a rib to “pop.”
  • Exercise– Working out can cause the ribs to move out of position, particularly if the person has improper form, or if they do a lot of work with their arms extended in front of them. This is especially true when weights are involved. The muscles involved in the movement may not be strong enough to handle the added weight and movement combination, causing the rib to become misaligned.
  • Improper Posture – Poor posture puts stress on the body and spine put pressure on the posterior portion of the ribcage. Over time, this can cause ribs to misalign
  • Pregnancy – As a woman’s body changes toward the end of her pregnancy, her weight shifts to the front. This can create a continual downward pull on her rib cage, increasing her risk of rib misalignment.

Symptoms of a rib misalignment

Symptoms of a rib misalignment may include:

  • Swelling and/or bruising in the affected area.
  • The formation of a lump over the affected rib.
  • Extreme pain and difficulty when breathing, trying to sit up, or while straining.
  • Painful sneezing and/or coughing.
  • Pain when moving or walking.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Numbness or paralysis in nearby or surrounding ribs.
  • Tenderness in the affected area.
  • Radiating pain from your back to your front or vice versa.

What is the treatment for a rib misalignment?

Chiropractic care is considered one of the best, most effective treatments for misaligned ribs. Once the chiropractor has determined that the rib is out of alignment, he or she will often begin by using various techniques that will “loosen” the area, making the muscles more pliable.

They may do this by using stretching or a massage. They will then use gentle but firm pressure to realign the rib back into place. In some cases, stabilization may be used after to keep the area protected, allowing it to heal. The treatment for a rib out of alignment is usually far less painful than the condition and some patients report not experiencing any pain at all.