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Can Physiotherapy Help Rib Fractures?

musculoskeletal conditions

Can Physiotherapy Help Rib Fractures?


Rib fractures can be acute or chronic (stress fractures).

Some examples of what causes a rib fracture include;

  • Direct blow from a person e.g. rugby league, martial arts, AFL
  • Direct hit by an object e.g. cricket ball, motor vehicle accident, fall from height
  • Large muscle forces over time e.g. rowers, chronic coughing


Signs and symptoms of a rib fracture include;

  • Pain over the fracture site – can be at the front or side of the chest, or at the back
  • Pain may appear as chest pain, or radiate to the shoulder, neck or spine
  • Can experience an ache, particularly initially after injury
  • Pain with coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • Difficulty lying on the injured side
  • Pain with trunk movements (e.g. turning side to side) or arm movements

Rib fractures tend to heal in 6-8 weeks. During that time, physiotherapy can reduce your pain and maximise recovery.

This is achieved by;

  • Pain education and strategies to perform day-to-day tasks with minimal discomfort
  • Electrotherapy and soft tissue massage to relax muscles and reduce pain
  • Prescription of appropriate exercises to maintain strength of the surrounding muscles
  • Joint mobilisation to restore movement to stiff joints

Respiratory complications can occur after rib fractures, particularly with multiple fracture sites, underlying lung pathology, older age, or acquiring an illness after the fracture. Physiotherapy plays an important role in reducing this by prescribing breathing exercises and monitoring lung function. Physiotherapy also help provide a guideline for returning to sport or physical activity.

Do you interested to know about rib fracture treatment or fractures treatment? Give us a call on (07) 3511 6352 if you, or someone you know, has a rib fracture.

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