Bruised or broken ribs can be very painful but usually heal by themselves.

Check if you have a bruised or broken rib

Broken (fractured) or bruised ribs are usually caused by a fall, a blow to the chest or severe coughing.

Symptoms include:

  • strong pain in your chest area, particularly when you breathe in
  • swelling or tenderness around the affected ribs
  • sometimes bruising on the skin
  • feeling or hearing a crack if it’s a broken rib

Ribs can’t be easily splinted or supported like other bones, so they’re usually left to heal naturally. There’s often no need for an X-ray.

Things you can do yourself

Broken or bruised ribs heal in the same way and usually get better by themselves within 3 to 6 weeks.

There are some things you can do to help ease pain and speed up healing:

See a GP or go to a minor injuries unit if your pain hasn’t improved within a few weeks

The doctor can prescribe stronger painkillers if necessary or refer you to hospital if you need further treatment.

Find a minor injuries unit