Rib Pain From Coughing?
Last updated: September 2022
Yep, it can happen.
Thought you could only hurt your ribs in an accident? Well, there are a lot of ways to hurt ribs - accidents, sports, reaching/lifting/twisting, or sneezing and coughing.
When you have asthma, you can hurt your ribs by coughing during an asthma attack or while you are sick with bronchitis or pneumonia.
How do you know if you have injured your ribs?
The most obvious is pain (it can be sudden and sharp, or come on gradually.) You may also have tenderness and swelling. Your doctor may want to make sure it's not something serious, so it would be a good idea to check in with him or her.
Just like other strained muscles, these injuries are graded on a scale of 0-3, depending on how serious they are. Grade 1 may take 2-3 WEEKS to heal. Grade 2 may take 2-3 MONTHS to heal, and Grade 3 may need surgery.
How can you help rib pain?
An over-the-counter pain reliever is usually the first choice for injuries, as is an ice pack (many doctors recommend using an ice pack for only 20 minutes at a time.)
Prescription cough medicine can also help. When I pulled a muscle in my ribs from coughing during a bout with bronchitis, my doctor gave me a prescription cough medicine to calm my cough. Usually, doctors WANT you to cough to keep your lungs clear. But my doctor could see how much pain I was in and knew that would cause me to take shallow breaths - which could allow pneumonia to develop in my lungs.
Light pressure against your ribs can help reduce pain if you need to cough or move around. Sounds weird, but it worked for me. I used the palm of my hand to gently press against my ribs, but some people will use pillows to gently apply counter pressure if they need to cough.
If in doubt, call your doctor so you know what you are dealing with and how they want you to treat your rib pain. And try to be patient. Notice I said, "try?"
Anyone else experienced rib pain from a pulled muscle or broken rib due to asthma?
How often do you find time to focus on yourself?
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