Written By Dr. Megumi Moskowitz

Symptoms and Causes of a ‘Rib Out’

A commonly used chiropractic terminology “rib out” actually means a rib joint dysfunction.  An acute rib joint dysfunction can cause an incredibly sharp, stabbing pain frequently felt under a shoulder blade or between the shoulder blades. The pain can be severe enough to cause difficulty in taking deep breaths, finding a comfortable position to sleep in, or moving the neck or arm of the affected side.  

Acute rib pain can be caused by coughing, sneezing, overreaching of the arms, or sleeping with an extended arm over head. However, you don’t necessarily have to do anything “wrong” to cause a rib dysfunction. Simply sitting at your computer and reaching for an improperly placed keyboard or mouse can even lead to a rib dysfunction.


Your Rib Joints are Flexible!

Rib OutWe have twelve pairs of ribs that have joints against the vertebrae of the spine on our back side and the breast bone (sternum) on our front side to help protect the organs such as the heart and lungs.  Many people seem to think that the rib cage is a rigid structure. The truth is that our ribs are constantly moving with each breath, as well as when we bend and twist our torso. Rib pain occurs due to irritation of the intercostal nerve, which is a nerve that runs along every rib. When one of our ribs is out of alignment, this nerve sends our brain a signal that says our rib joint is painfully out of place.


Treatment for Rib Joint Injury

Once a rib is ‘out’, a chiropractor can help by realigning the rib joint, and reducing the tightness of the nearby muscles which have reacted to the rib dysfunction. Some cases can be resolved quickly, but sometimes the rib will come out of alignment again. Why? This can be attributed to the surrounding muscles pulling the rib back out of alignment, or due to our inability to avoid the same movement (reaching with the arm, coughing, etc.) that initially caused it.



Tips to Keep Your Rib Joints in Alignment

What can prevent a rib joint dysfunction? Good posture plays an important role. When we use our arms while driving, typing, and reaching, we should make sure that our shoulder blades are drawn back and down. Drawing our shoulder blades down stabilizes them to avoid overreaching of the arms, thus minimizing the risk of a rib coming out of proper alignment.

 Once you think you have a rib out of alignment, using a foam roller to loosen up columns of muscles on both sides of the spine can help improve the condition of the rib joint dysfunction until your chiropractor can manipulate the rib “back in”.  Have more questions? Comments? You can always call our office at (503) 287-7733 or use the contact form below. 

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