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Rib Separation: Symptoms & Treatment

Rib Separation: Symptoms & Treatment
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  • 0:04 The Rib Cage
  • 0:40 What Is Rib Separation?
  • 1:24 Symptoms of Rib Separation
  • 1:47 Treatment of Rib Separation
  • 3:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

A rib separation just sounds painful - and it is! In this lesson, we will learn what a rib separation is. We will learn about the symptoms associated with this and how it's often treated.

The Rib Cage

The human body is quite the engineering marvel. The design is so practical, yet intricate. Take your rib cage, for example. How brilliant to have a cage to protect some of your most vital internal organs, your heart and lungs.

The rib cage is made up of several parts, including the sternum, or breastbone, in the front of the chest, and the ribs, which are attached to the sternum in the front and the spine in back.

The costochondral joints are what attach the ribs to the sternum and are made of cartilage.

It's a great design, but as with any great design, damage to the structure can still occur.

What Is Rib Separation?

You probably don't generally think about a rib separation. Most people have heard of broken ribs and realize those can be painful. But what is a rib separation?

A rib separation is also called a costochondral separation. The name itself probably gives you a clue about where we are going with this. If the rib becomes detached from the sternum at the costochondral joint, it is called a costochondral separation.

Most commonly, rib separation occurs from blunt force trauma to the chest. This could be a car accident, sports injury, or any other direct force to the chest. Sometimes it can even occur from less traumatic injuries, such as leaning over a railing or ledge, a violent twisting motion, or even coughing.

Symptoms of Rib Separation

Pain is the most common symptom of rib separation. When an injury occurs that causes the rib separation, the area will be painful. Sometimes there is a popping noise since the rib is no longer attached to the sternum. Just moving can cause pain and it can be painful to lie down to sleep. Coughing, sneezing, and even laughing can hurt when you have a separated rib.

Treatment of Rib Separation

Since most rib separations are caused by a traumatic force to the chest, a doctor will make sure there aren't any other injuries such as damage to the heart or lungs. Rib separations take time to heal, but will generally heal well without further complications.

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