I think I hurt a rib. I don't know what to do. I'm not out yet and I've been using ace bandages. I'm incredibly stupid. I'm sorry. Please if you help me I'll throw them all out and find a way to come out. Please? I'm so sorry. I live in usa.
Hi dear! You’re not stupid - we understand the draw of ace bandages, but it’s really, really, really important that you don’t ever use them again. Okay, my friend?
This is now an official Ribcage Troubleshooting Post!
This post isn’t a replacement for a doctor, but it can help you figure out whether you need to see a doctor, or what you should do until you can!
Look at this cool picture of some bones. That’s your ribcage, pretty nice eh? We’re gonna use this to figure out what’s up.
To give you a general idea of what’s going on, let me explain what’s up. That big bone in the middle, connecting the sides of your ribcage, is your sternum. It’s super important, since it helps protect some Serious Stuff, and anything that affects your ribs likely affects it!
Connected to your sternum on both sides are your collarbones (clavicles). You can usually see and feel your collarbones, since they’re very close to your skin.
To give you a sense of which rib is which, ribs 4, 5, or 6 are usually the ones that are just underneath breast tissue. (Some people have more than 10 ribs, but the last one is the last one!)
The blue parts of this diagram are made of costal cartilage, connecting the ribs and the sternum. Where the costal cartilage meets your ribs is called a costochondral joint. Where the costal cartilage meets your sternum, on the other hand, is called a sternocostal joint.
Over top of all this bone and cartilage is intercostal muscle. They go in between your ribs, filling the spaces, allowing you to breathe in and out.
So just how many ways can you injure all of this by binding unsafely?
- fractured bone
- bruised bone
- bruised muscle
- bruised cartilage
- torn muscle
- torn cartilage
- inflamed muscle (costochondritis)
- not to mention all the stuff that’s deep down underneath - you can seriously harm your lungs, for instance
Here comes the actual troubleshooting part.
- Which area of your ribcage hurts, and what is the pain like? (Tender? Shooting? Burning? Throbbing? Like something’s tearing? An ache, a sting?)
- Can you make physical contact with the area? Does any physical contact make the pain worse, or do you have to press gently to worsen it?
- Is the skin hot around the painful area, visibly red or bruised, or visibly swollen?
- When you press at the very top of your sternum (in between your collarbones) does it worsen the pain at your rib?
- Does it hurt to breathe, or is it difficult to breathe?
- Are you coughing, or coughing blood or mucus?
- Are you experiencing fatigue (like you’re really really sleepy), or are you dizzy?
- Check your pulse. Open up a timer with seconds on it, find your pulse, and count for one whole minute. Here’s an ask about healthy pulses (although YMMV if you are chronically ill).
If you cannot make physical contact with the area, are experiencing significant pain and/or difficulty breathing, are coughing blood, or answered yes to #4, go to the hospital. You may have broken or fractured a rib, or something worse. You need immediate medical attention.
If you can make physical contact with the area but it seriously hurts to do so, and are experiencing any of the above symptoms, go to the hospital.
If you can make physical contact with the area and it only hurts a little, are experiencing some pain but mostly when you press the painful area, are able to breathe normally, and are not coughing up any discharge, follow these instructions.
- Stop binding. No arguments. Do not bind until your symptoms are gone.
- Take an NSAID. These are over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen. Acetaminophen/paracetamol will not help with inflammation, but will help with pain.
- Ice the area for 20 minutes (don’t make direct contact with the skin - ice in a ziploc wrapped in a towel!). Rest it for 20 minutes. Heat for 20 minutes (heating pads or warm showers help) and rest again. Continue to alternate this.
- Rest. Keep your chest relatively elevated - do not lay down flat or lower than your heart.
- Keep pressure off your chest.
- If you develop any more symptoms or the pain does not go away in 24 hours, go to the hospital.
- And the golden rule: when in doubt, get it checked out.
I’m not joking around here, friend. Your body is important and you gotta be kind to it! If that means you need medical care, so be it. As long as you’re safe.
I really advise that you throw out every single ace bandage you have, no matter what. The temptation is too great, and it is never, ever, ever safe to bind with ace bandages.
Let us know if you’re okay, anon. I’m sending good thoughts and hopes for good health in your direction. <3