Most runners, at some point in time, have had some sort of injury to the ribcage. Usually this limits our ability to take those nice deep breaths we all enjoy while running. This article will discuss some of the more common rib injuries.
What is it?Pain in the ribs can vary from mild discomfort to very severe. Rib pain can be so intense that it actually limits breathing and makes lying down very uncomfortable. In situations where severe trauma to the ribs has occurred, it is essential to obtain an x-ray to rule out damage to the internal organs such as the lungs and spleen.
Types of rib injuries include bruising, dislocation, intercostal muscle strain, cartilage damage and even fracture. Less commonly, herpes zoster (also known as shingles) a viral infection, can cause ribcage pain.
What are the causes/predisposing factors of rib pain? Trauma is the most likely cause of rib pain. Here in Alberta, we see lots of falls on icy roads, sidewalks and parking lots. Repetitive stress, such as persistent severe coughing can also lead to rib pain.
With herpes zoster a weakened immune system can allow the dormant virus to become active and cause problems.
What are the signs/symptoms of rib pain? Very commonly, most rib injuries will present with painful breathing and localized tenderness at the site of the injury. Any pressure on the ribcage such as lying down may also be quite painful.
Shingles will usually present with a rash along the rib on one side that will start to ooze and then later crust over. The rash is usually preceded by symptoms of fever and chills
What can be done to prevent/treat this injury? Unfortunately, most rib injuries cannot be treated aggressively. The primary goal is to limit discomfort while the injury heals. This can be quite a long process in the case of cartilage damage and fractures (we’re talking up to 12 weeks here).
The use of analgesics, anti-inflammatories and ice is recommended for bone and soft tissue injuries and, if required, a supportive rib jacket can be worn to reduce pressure over the area.
Shingles can be treated similar to rib injuries with the addition of anti-viral medication.
To prevent traumatic rib injuries from falls, pick running routes that are less icy or get some grip enhancers such as “Yak Traxs” or something similar. If the conditions are really bad, either a day off or a treadmill run might be a much better alternative than taking your chances in the great outdoors.