The time it takes to heal a broken rib

How long does it take to heal a broken rib?

The healing time of the broken rib usually takes about 12 weeks.
During this time, the destroyed bone tissue is broken down and a new bone is built up again. As a result, the broken ends heal together again. However, a so-called soft callus is formed after about 3 to 4 weeks. This initially consists of soft bone tissue and therefore has a significantly lower resilience, but should lead to freedom from pain.

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What does the healing time depend on?

As soon as the bone ends are parallel to each other, healing can proceed without complications.

Reduction may be necessary if the fracture ends of the rib fracture are not parallel. In the case of very complicated fractures, some of them have to be surgically reduced and fixed with screws or plates. In these cases the bones are either shattered or inherently very unstable, so that a parallel growing together without external fixation is impossible.

However, the operation can also lead to other complications and severe pain, so that surgical therapy is not useful in most cases. The healing time can hardly be shortened by other methods.

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What factors prolong healing time?

  • Patients with osteoporosis have a longer healing process
  • With increasing age, the healing time also increases
  • Both malnutrition and obesity delay the healing process

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Appointment with ?

I would be happy to advise you!

Who am I?
My name is dr. Nicolas Gumpert. I am a specialist in orthopedics and the founder of .
Various television programs and print media report regularly about my work. On HR television you can see me every 6 weeks live on "Hallo Hessen".
But now enough is indicated ;-)

In order to be able to treat successfully in orthopedics, a thorough examination, diagnosis and a medical history are required.
In our very economic world in particular, there is too little time to thoroughly grasp the complex diseases of orthopedics and thus initiate targeted treatment.
I don't want to join the ranks of "quick knife pullers".
The aim of any treatment is treatment without surgery.

Which therapy achieves the best results in the long term can only be determined after looking at all of the information (Examination, X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, etc.) be assessed.

You will find me:

  • Lumedis - orthopedic surgeons
    Kaiserstrasse 14
    60311 Frankfurt am Main

You can make an appointment here.
Unfortunately, it is currently only possible to make an appointment with private health insurers. I hope for your understanding!
For more information about myself, see Lumedis - Orthopedists.

How can I speed up the healing time?

The healing of a rib fracture can be supported and even promoted by various measures. On the one hand, the healing process is supported when the patient is relieved of pain. In addition to classic drug therapy with ibuprofen or paracetamol, magnetic field therapy can also be used to alleviate the symptoms. There are still no conclusive studies, but patients report a significant improvement in pain after magnetotherapy. The healing time was less than twelve weeks.

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Putting on kinesio tapes can also support healing. The tapes are applied by a trained physiotherapist so that they hold the reduced fracture in place. At the same time, the tapes can reduce swelling and pain.

Broken ribs cause breathing difficulties, in particular, so many patients adopt a relieving posture and breathe much more shallowly. Again, this can bring some risks. Due to the shallow breathing, the deeper lung areas are not regularly ventilated and mucus is not transported upwards. This creates an optimal breeding ground for bacteria that lead to pneumonia (pneumonia) being able to lead. This significantly lengthens the healing process. Accordingly, breathing exercises or targeted breathing therapy can support healing and also improve pain management.

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How do I behave properly after a broken rib?

The most important thing for the healing process is adequate rest together with adequate pain medication. In order not to cause renewed discomfort after the fracture, the physical strain should be increased slowly and carefully afterwards.

Since the body focuses on building new bone during healing, it needs plenty of the nutrients it needs. A balanced and calcium-rich diet gives the body all the important nutrients it needs to heal the fracture. At the same time the body is relieved and the bones are strengthened.

In addition to these measures, the healing process should also be supported by adequate rest and recovery. Healthy and adequate sleep as well as avoiding sport or carrying heavy objects further accelerate the healing time.

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Length of sick leave

A broken rib is usually not threatening and heals without therapeutic measures.Often times, pain relievers are prescribed to relieve pain. In addition, one should not strain the body too much, but give it rest to heal the broken rib. This is usually the case after two to four weeks.

The duration of the sick leave should not be shorter than the healing time, as a broken rib can have further consequences. These include, for example, difficulty breathing. Even after leaving sick leave, the patient should be careful about heavy physical activity or even avoid weeks at a time.

Duration of pain

The pain of a broken rib can be significant. However, this is not an exceptional situation, it is completely natural. The broken bone irritates the surrounding nerves and penetrates the surrounding tissue, causing a painful stimulus.

Since the ribs of the lungs rest on it, breathing difficulties can occur in a few cases or the lungs can even be injured directly. Depending on which rib is broken, a wide variety of vessels can also be injured. Internal abdominal organs or the heart can also be injured or crushed by a broken rib. All these accompanying injuries lead to further pain in addition to the actual pain of the broken rib. A broken rib should not be underestimated and should be examined by a doctor.

Analgesics and, in the case of very severe pain, opioids can also be used to treat the pain. A so-called nerve block is an alternative to painkillers. A local anesthetic is injected into the lower edge of the broken rib. In this way the intercostal nerves can be numbed. However, the local anesthetics usually only work for six to eight hours.

While a broken rib usually takes about six to eight weeks to heal completely, the pain only lasts about two weeks. After two weeks, in the case of normal, simple rib fractures, they gradually subside.

Sports break

After a broken rib, you should avoid doing heavy physical work. However, some movement exercises can also help the rib heal. However, it is important to ensure that the chest in particular is not subjected to excessive stress.

You should also make sure that you do not lift any heavy objects (no more than five kilograms). Movements such as vacuuming should also be avoided if possible. Sports that generally pose a risk of the rib injury rupturing should be avoided at all costs. This includes jogging or cycling. The exertion increases breathing - this can also affect the broken rib. All of these activities should be avoided for at least six weeks. Only when the broken rib has completely healed can you go back to your everyday sporting activities.

Even so, there are some physical exercises that can and should be done during a broken rib. This includes breathing exercises, stretching and stretching exercises, back exercises but also light weight training (squats, leg presses, light dumbbell training). Simple walks do not pose any threat to the healing of the broken rib.

It usually takes three to four weeks for a rib to heal largely. Complete healing takes two to three weeks longer in simple, normal rib fractures. The less the symptoms become, the more athletic activities can be resumed. However, exercising that poses a risk of rib rupture should wait until the ribs have healed completely.

What to do if the broken rib does not heal

If the bone ends of the broken rib are not parallel to each other, complications can arise during healing. If the bones cannot grow together without complications, surgical interventions can be induced.

So, if the doctor determines that the rib is not healing together as it should, they may consider surgery. This can be determined relatively early after the break, as you can quickly see how the ribs are related to one another or whether they are growing together or not. When diagnosing a broken rib that does not heal together, surgery is usually the only option.

In a surgical procedure, either screws or plates can be used to fix the two ends of the bone. This brings the ribs back together and allows them to grow together properly.

In a few cases, an alternative to surgery is the complete "laying down" of the nerves in the area of ​​the broken ribs. This method can be used when an operation is too dangerous, for example if the break is close to the spine. The pain caused by the broken rib is stopped, but the broken rib itself is not treated.