The treatment is to use a rib belt. This is a strap of elastic, about eight inches wide, that goes around the rib cage. It stretches tight and closes in front. This compresses the rib cage so that it canít expand too far. The belt holds the rib end in place until it heals and lessens the pain of everyday movements.
The treatment is to rest (for about six weeks) and to wear a rib belt until the pain is gone. An x-ray must show that the ribs have healed before you can return to activity. The muscle between each pair of ribs, the intercostal muscle, which is the muscle used in respiration, may pull or tear due to overstress. This can happen to a tennis or football player who makes a sudden, violent lateral motion or suddenly rotates the rib cage. As a result, you will feel tenderness between the ribs, not on them. Again, rest the ribs and ice them until the pain disappears, and use a rib belt until you can move about freely.
The use of circumferential rib belts in treating patients with acute rib fractures has been discouraged because of possible complications from restricted ventilation. A review of the literature revealed no previous clinical studies to support this view. We designed and conducted a controlled, prospective, randomized pilot study to determine if there was any increased morbidity associated with the use of rib belts in the treatment of patients with acute rib fractures. Twenty-five adult patients with radiographically proven acute rib fractures were randomized into two groups. The first group was treated with analgesics and a standard circumferential rib belt (Zimmer Universal Rib Belt).
Rib belts were not found to significantly reduce the severity of pain. Four complications (one case of bloody pleural effusion requiring hospitalization, two cases of asymptomatic discoid atelectasis, and one case of allergic contact dermatitis) were identified, all occurring in the group of patients receiving rib belts. This pilot study indicates that while rib belts are widely accepted by patients for control of pain, they appear to be associated with an increased incidence of complications.