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Floating rib pain: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The human body is made up of a bony framework known as the skeleton. The ribs are attached to the sternum and are part of the rib cage, which helps protect the organs found there. However, four of those ribs are not attached to the sternum, but to the thoracic vertebrae. Because of this, they are called floating ribs.

Pain in floating ribs is rare; however, it can occur due to chest trauma, traffic accidents or the practice of some risky sport, such as martial arts. In this FastlyHealarticle, we will talk about floating rib pain , its causes and treatment.

Floating ribs: what are they and what are they for

The ribs are a set of long, flat bones that make up the rib cage and are shaped like an arch. Its main function is to protect vital organs, such as the heart or lungs, as well as blood vessels such as the aorta, superior and inferior vena cava. However, the floating ribs, being in the lowest part of the rib cage, are capable of protecting organs such as the liver or kidneys .

The floating ribs are two pairs of ribs that are not attached to the sternum , but are attached to the body by the spine, so that, in case of need or aesthetic desires, they can be eliminated without causing any alteration in the patient. In fact, some people are born with only one pair of floating ribs, there are even those who have up to three pairs of ribs, although the most common is to have two.

Types of human ribs

According to human anatomy, there are three types of ribs:

  • True ribs : also called upper ribs. They have a total of seven pairs of ribs and bear this name because they are attached to the dorsal vertebrae in the back of the back, while in the front they are attached to the sternum.
  • False ribs : also known as lower ribs. They are called this way because they are not articulated directly with the sternum, but with the other ribs. They are made up of three pairs of ribs.
  • Floating ribs : these are the ribs that in their anterior part are not attached to any bone, in this case to the sternum, but are only attached in the back to the vertebrae. In the human body there are usually two pairs, although there are people who have three pairs or even just one.

Floating rib pain: causes

The causes of pain in floating ribs, like the other ribs, can be multiple, although in the vast majority of cases, this pain is due to poor movement or muscle overload. However, pain in floating ribs can also be caused by the following:

  • Jerky movements : floating ribs are very sensitive. Therefore, a sudden movement can cause the vertebra to swell. Also, a slight displacement of it can cause a lot of pain.
  • Weight gain or obesity – Being overweight can sometimes cause sticking out floating ribs, leading to a lot of pain.
  • Trauma : it is one of the most common causes of pain in floating ribs, which can lead to a fissure or fracture of the rib.
  • Lack of oxygen : if you have pain in the floating ribs on the left side, pain behind the sternum or even pain in the ribs and back, it may be due to an oxygen deficit in the heart, which could be a warning of some alteration at the level of coronary vessels.
  • Intercostal neuralgia : it is a strong pain that occurs very frequently between two ribs due to inflammation and irritation of the nerves that pass through there, in addition to trauma to the area.
  • Infectious processes : these can also give rise to rib pain when breathing or performing physical movement.
  • Strong cough for a long period : if you feel pain in the ribs when coughing, it may be due to a fissure or a fracture of the floating ribs produced by the same cough, if it is strong and sustained for a long time. For more information, you can consult the article Why do my ribs hurt when I cough .
  • Protruding ribs : this is another reason why floating rib pain can occur. The causes of this condition are very diverse, since it can be due to both hereditary factors, such as changes in body weight, improper posture and even pregnancy. However, having ribs removed is not a medical condition, but has to do directly with aesthetics.

Floating rib pain: symptoms

It is important to be aware of the most common symptoms of floating rib pain. Among them are:

  • Pain in the thoracic region that limits movements.
  • Pain when palpating the area where the ribs are located.
  • Presence of increased volume in the abdominal region or in the waist.
  • Tightness in the chest when breathing.
  • Tos.
  • Tingling in the chest region.
  • Shortness of breath when breathing deeply.

If you suspect you may have a cracked or broken rib, this other article on How to tell if I have a cracked or broken rib may be helpful .

Floating rib pain: treatment

The medical treatment of floating rib pain will depend on the cause of the alteration. Either way, rest and rest are part of the treatment of this disorder. If it is an infectious process, the doctor will prescribe the use of antibiotics .

Floating rib fracture: treatment

In case of having pain in the floating ribs due to an injury or fracture, analgesics and anti-inflammatories may be taken to control the pain and reduce the inflammation of the affected region. In the case of sports, it is advisable to suspend your practice to prevent existing symptoms from worsening. In the same way, it is advisable to avoid making sudden movements or taking weight.

Similarly, in the case of neuralgia, it is essential to start a therapy based on vitamin B12, analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs .

Floating ribs exits: treatment

When the pain is due to the floating ribs being protruding, chiropractic is an excellent option, which will also be of great help in cases of muscle contractures and even muscle aches due to this alteration.

Also, the use of a corset can help to return them to their position, especially after pregnancy or an abdominal surgical procedure.

Remove the floating ribs

In some cases, on an aesthetic level, its removal is preferred to refine the waist and avoid the pain of floating ribs, if this occurs. However, it is important to remember that, although they are not attached to the sternum, floating ribs are also important, as they protect the organs located in the chest region from trauma.

Finally, any alteration that occurs must be evaluated by a specialist doctor , who will be in charge of suggesting the treatment to be followed to reverse the symptoms that you present.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Floating Rib Pain: Causes and Treatment , we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints and Muscles category .

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