It is very common in our office to see patients that come in with rib pain. Patients often come in saying, “I have a rib out” or “my rib is popped out of place”, which in medical terms, that would be diagnosed as a rib dislocation or rib subluxation. This is a phenomenon that we have all heard about for years, yet there is a lack of scientific evidence to back this up. In a study by Oikonomou and Prassopoulos, they used CT scan imaging on patients who had experienced blunt thoracic trauma to diagnose thoracic injuries. Radiologists diagnosed these injuries as pneumothorax, hemothorax, pulmonary contusion, tracheobronchial lacerations, rib fractures, sternal fractures and sternoclavicular dislocations. Not one patient was diagnosed with a “rib dislocation” or “rib subluxation”. How can this be so with the severity of these traumas? How does a simple sneeze or twisting of the body make a rib pop out of place but a traumatic event doesn’t?
So what is really happening? One thing that can occur is restriction in the joints of the thoracic spine and the costovertebral joints, where the rib heads meet the vertebra in the thoracic spine. If there is a restriction and the joints aren’t moving correctly, that can put load on the ligaments supporting the joints and the muscles being attached to those areas. So when the body makes a sudden movement that can cause a sprain in the costoverberal ligament and a local muscle spasm, due to the body trying to stabilize and protect the segment. This can cause local inflammation and that can be the reason for the bump you may feel in that area.
In these situations, it is important to get movement through those restricted joints, work through the soft tissue around that area, and stabilize the core to prevent future injury. If you are experiencing rib pain, make an appointment with one of our doctors here at F.I.T. Muscle & Joint Clinic. We currently have five locations providing for the surrounding Kansas City area including Shawnee KS, Overland Park KS, Blue Valley KS, Downtown KCMO, and Lee’s Summit MO. New Patients are always welcome!