Dislocated Floating Ribs Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Dislocated rib or out-of-place rib can cause you several level of pain, and the cause of it are varied, ranging from just coughing to a more serious cause like when the rib cage or your chest area making contact with blunt force as you may see in an accidents, a twist or sudden movement.

The dislocated rib is not the only injury that a person can experience, there are also rib separation that will happen if two part of the ribs which is head rib and adjoining bones get separated from the spinal cord or people knows as sternum either by blunt force or other causes. This dislocated floating rib can happen to everyone, from elder, adults, pregnant woman and even babies.

Some people often asking about what is the different between the broken ribs and dislocated ribs since it is almost look like the same.

Well, actually the broken rib bones are the case where the rib bones itself are cracked while the dislocated rib are for cases where the ligaments that surroundings the ribs are sprained. Although it looks almost the same but it is actually a very different cases.

One of the classical symptoms to determine if it is indeed a rib injury is a pain that you feel under the rib cage. The person will feel the pain around the area of where the ribs are injured, for example one may feel the pain under the right rib area or the left rib area.

If you experience these symptoms especially after you got involves in an accident, it is best to go to a certified doctor and get it checked if it is indeed an injury on your rib.

What can cause this dislocated floating rib?


Since the chest cavity has a large area, compared to other part of the human body, it makes it has a higher chance of getting injuries, given its forefront position. When a person is in a situation where he or she may get an injury, the ribs area is the part of the body that prone to the first contact.

And this kind of situations that has higher chance to be the cause of dislocations and fractures. But the chance of a younger person to experience dislocated floating rib, fractured rib or broken rib are low because a younger person has a more elastic ribs compared to the older person.

Elderly ribs are much more prone to injuries like this dislocated floating rib and fractures because they lack of cartilage plus they will get more exposed to osteoporosis.

There are various causes to this dislocated floating rib, such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Trauma of the chest wall caused by blunt force
  • Accidents, especially automobile accidents
  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Older age
  • Costochondritis

The medium part of the chest are the most forward positioned, that is why it gets more exposed to injuries such as broken rib and also fractured rib like displaced rib fracture. On the contrary, those injuries are less likely to happen to the upper three ribs because they are somewhat hidden behind the collar bone.

The rib fractures, caused by either direct force or indirect force,  are most likely to happen around the frontal and back curve. As for the case of dislocation, the lower rib are the most exposed to this kind of injury, whether it is caused by direct force or indirect force.

But most of the rib injuries that happened are cause by a direct force, causing a direct injury. And these situations happens a lot of time especially in sports which requires a lot of strengths like in football, hockey, rugby, boxing, wrestling and many other strength sports.

Beside sport, various kind of rib injuries are the outcome of traffic accidents particularly car accidents or other high-speed automobile. A fall from high places, may also cause rib injuries.

If you have already experience a dislocated rib injury then there will be a high chance that you will get the same injury if you are not being careful. Dislocated rib also cause by getting chest injuries over and over again, which finally leads to dislocate rib or even broken rib.

What are the symptoms of dislocated floating rib injury?


In this part, you will know various symptoms of dislocated rib and if you or people around you show one of the signs below, it is advised to go to see the expert doctor and get it checked as soon as possible to avoid any unwanted problem. A person who are experiencing dislocated rib will feel these symptoms:

  • Strong, stabbing pain around the chest area

The person who suffers from dislocated rib usually will feel a strong and stabbing pain around their chest area with every slight movement. At first they will feel the pain when the first time they get injury and they will continue to feel the pain for a longer time afterward.

But if a person only gets a small injuries, the pain they will feel around the chest area because of dislocated rib injury will not be that severe, and they still be able to do their daily activities. For a more serious rib injury, they will no longer be able to fo their daily activities and they will also experiencing a strong and paralyzing pain around their rib cage area.

  • Strong pain

The person who suffers from dislocated rib will experiencing pain for the period of injury, and what first feel like a strong pain will gradually turns tu stabbing pain and continue to be intense stabbing pain if the person keep trying to move their body too much.

The pain will come even if the person only move their body slightly. The person will be more likely to feel the intense pain in the morning and evening. They will feel that the pain gets intensive when they are trying to lies on their injured side.

  • Difficulty to inhale deeper

The person with dislocated rib will be unable to take a deep breaths as it will cause them to feel an instant sharp pain. Deep breaths usually associated with rib pain.

  • Coughing and sneezing become painful

The parson with this injury will feel pain around their chest area when they coughing or sneezing. The pain will be intensified if they are trying to make intensive chest movement like bend over, lifting some weights, pulling something or pushing something.

A simple tip if you happen to experience a displaced rib, apply ice directly around the affected area. This method will help yo reduce the swelling and the pain you feel.

Various treatment to dislocated floating ribs


The dislocated rib or other various kind of rib injuries like rib subluxation, has no particular method of treatment unless it is a severe case. The minor type of rib injuries such as dislocated floating rib or even a rib head subluxation, will heal by its own but off course with the help of the doctor as well.

The first aid that you can perform for this rib injury is ice cubes or a cold compress, and it is quite easy to do. All you need is to place an ice pack, frozen meat or basically anything that is frozen, directly to the painful area. The ice or any kind of frozen items will be helpful to reduce the pain from the injury as well as treating th swelling parts.

To help reducing the pain from this dislocated rib, you can go to see your doctor and get a prescribtion of pain killers pills, such as acetaminophen. But there is a chance that you will need a surgery if the dislocation are severely bad. If it is not too bad then your doctor may give you some general anesthesia before they attempt to push your dislocated ribs to its original place.

The treatment will also be different if it is not a dislocation case but actually a subluxation. In the case of subluxation, your doctor has the choice to intervene or not because this subluxation rib are not particularly a bad case, and these occurences capable to correct itself back to their original place.

After your doctor finished the treatment of placing the dislocated rib back to its place, you will find that they will need to put a bandage around your body. This bandage for the chest part of the body usually called a rib belt or also known as chest support belt.

This bandage are necessary for the person who suffers dislocated rib or any other rib injury since it will hold the already aligned rib bones in their place and make sure that they will not move again for as long as the time needed for recovery.

There are other severe injuries involving the ribs like some fractures and rib head that’s out of its original place.

These problems will require certain basic therapy to treat it, like surgery, pain minimization using various pain killers medications, cough suppression which will reduce the chance of dislocated ribs after the treatments, symptomatic measures, bleeding prevention, and the treatment that is the most necessary which is resting.

How to recover and healing from dislocated floating rib


The healing time needed to overcome this rib injury are varied, because it depends on the severity of the case. Some minor cases will take a few hours while other serious cases will need a few weeks to a couple months to really heal. When you get treatment for your rib injuries, you can start to rehabilitating after two days.

Try to use a warm compress to the affected area for relieving the pain and the swelling as well.

If you don’t really like the idea of warm compress, then there are various other ways to help you treat it. You can use heat liniments, some ointments as well or even a nice hot shower while you clean yourself as well. It is better if you have the access to a whirlpool treatments which will make the treatment more enjoyable and fun.

Heat will boost the speed of healing while also increasing blood flow, and make yourself comfortable at the same time. But keep in mind if you want to apply heat on your injured area, make sure that you are lying down with a natural position. If you do this correctly then the muscle around the top part of the rib will be more relaxed leading you to feel relief.

While still in time period of healing, you need to watch your diet menu for the healing process will be faster. Various food that rich in protein is a great choice for you like eggs, cheese, fish, meat, milk and many other food.

All of this foods are known to have great use for the development of the muscles, which will help to protect your ribs from future injuries. Your doctor may also ask you to get vitamins as well as mineral supplements to make your recovery quicker.

As long as you are still recovering from dislocated rib, it is best advised to stop any kind of action that will required a lot of physical activity. When you feel that the pain is too excruciating, then find some ice to alleviate the pain. 20 minutes every time you compress the painful part around 3 or 4 times a day.

When you are taking a break or resting, pay attention to the chest area and make sure that you don’t move it too much or too unnaturally. It is also advised that you pay attention to your overall posture, like the way you walk, how to sit, how to stand and also how to lay down.

Try to contact your doctor again if you find that your healing ribs or muscles around it is resisting your movements. You may want to ask them as well about the best exercise that will help you to make a faster recovery and gaining your mobility as well as your strength back. They may give you variation of strength training to help you with your recovery.

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