Bruised rib from coughing

A bruised rib from coughing. Unfortunately, it can occur, especially with large coughing fits or prolonged coughing attacks. This can cause continuous pressure on the ribs, causing a bruise. This is very annoying, because a rib bruise hurts. In addition, coughing can be made more difficult. Sometimes even breathing is painful and palpable in the ribs. This sometimes results in pneumonia.

Recognizing bruised ribs

Ribs are easily bruised. A bruise occurs because there is a lot of pressure on the ribs. The rib is therefore compressed and damaged. Often the tissue around it is also damaged. In addition, the skin can sometimes be blue due to a bruise. Bruised ribs are different from broken ribs. In the latter case there is clearly a bone fracture in the affected rib. A bruised rib is damage to the rib without a bone fracture. However, this does not make the pain any less: a bruise often hurts even more than a broken bone.

Cause: coughing

Of course, a bruise can be caused by anything. Due to a fall on the ribs or a blow or bump to the ribs. For example, ribs can even become bruised from the inside in pregnant women. The kicking baby is then the cause. Unfortunately, ribs are also often bruised by coughing. Coughing occurs with a cold, flu, inflammation of the airways or due to irritation.

How does the bruise occur?

The ribs have a protective function: they surround the lungs and the heart, among other things. These organs are vital and must be well protected. The ribs form a cage around these organs. Without this cage, the organs would be damaged immediately when pressure is put on our body. In addition, the rib cage gives shape to our body. The ribs are connected to each other by intercostal muscles. These muscles ensure the mobility of the ribs. The ribs are able to move relative to each other. This is necessary for breathing, but also for movements such as coughing.
When coughing, we exhale air from the lungs with great force. This puts more pressure on the ribs. If this pressure is maintained long enough, the ribs can become bruised.

Pain when coughing

The first thing we notice about a bruised rib is pain when coughing. Because we breathe deeply before coughing and also allow the chest to move more, we feel the pain much sooner. When coughing, the pain can worsen. Ultimately, the pain can also be felt during normal breathing. Sneezing can be painful, as can lying on your back or side. Lying on the stomach is often impossible due to the great pain.


Bruised ribs are often easy to diagnose by the doctor by asking questions and palpation (scanning the ribs). When pressing on the rib itself is painful, this is often a sign that the rib is bruised. Sometimes the rib is broken due to coughing, which is rare. We actually only see this in people with bone loss, or osteoporosis.
Cooling the bruise is of little use. It can reduce pain and swelling but will also slow down the healing process. When the body becomes cooler, fewer white blood cells will be released. The white blood cells are necessary for healing. Broken tissue must be cleared away. The doctor will often advise you to ‘take it easy’, but to exercise. Many people are confused by this advice because it sounds contradictory. Rest means: do not overload. Exercise means: daily exercise without overloading it. Rest is necessary for recovery, exercise to prevent stiffness and promote healing.
It is important to take cough suppressants so that the ribs are no longer overloaded. An expectorant medicine can help. The coughing stimulus can be reduced with medication and is especially important in a non-productive cough (cough without mucus). Painkillers ensure that people do not sit completely still to avoid the pain. As mentioned earlier, exercise is important for a speedy recovery. Bruised ribs usually heal without medication, but recovery can take several weeks. This partly depends on the underlying causes. With strong coughing fits/cough attacks that do not subside, the recovery from the bruise usually takes longer. Temporarily avoid strenuous exercise and sports until the coughing fits subside. Strenuous exercise makes coughing fits worse. If complaints persist, visit your doctor.
If you cannot breathe properly due to the pain, this can result in pneumonia. Pneumonia is a nasty condition that is better avoided. The use of pain relief for bruised ribs is therefore always advisable, but do not use it for longer than necessary.

read more

  • Recognizing bruised ribs
  • Flu: serious or not too bad?
  • Pneumonia or pneumonia
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