Ice Or Heat For Bruised Or Cracked Ribs: What You Need To Know
Bruised or cracked ribs can be very painful, but they usually heal by themselves within a few weeks. However, you may wonder whether you should use ice or heat to ease the pain and speed up the healing process. Here are some tips on how to treat bruised or cracked ribs with ice or heat.
When to use ice
Ice can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the first few days after the injury. It can also numb the pain and prevent further damage to the tissues. You should apply an ice pack, a frozen gel pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to the affected ribs for about 20 minutes every hour you are awake for the first two days[^4^]. Then, you can reduce it to 10-20 minutes three times a day as needed[^3^]. Make sure you do not apply ice directly to your skin, as this can cause frostbite. You should also avoid putting too much pressure on your ribs with the ice pack, as this can worsen the injury.
When to use heat
Heat can help ease pain and promote blood flow to the injured area, which can aid healing. However, you should not use heat in the first few days after the injury, as this can increase inflammation and bleeding. You should wait until the swelling has gone down before applying heat[^3^]. You can use a warm compress, a heating pad or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to the affected ribs for about 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day[^4^]. Make sure you do not use heat that is too hot, as this can burn your skin. You should also avoid sleeping with a heating pad on your ribs, as this can cause overheating and skin damage.
Other tips for treating bruised or cracked ribs
Besides using ice or heat, there are some other things you can do to help your bruised or cracked ribs heal faster and prevent complications. These include:
Taking painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to relieve pain and inflammation. However, you should avoid taking ibuprofen for 48 hours after your injury, as it may slow down healing[^2^]. You should also follow the dosage instructions on the label and consult your doctor before taking any medication if you have any medical conditions or allergies.
Breathing normally and coughing when you need to. This helps clear mucus from your lungs and prevent chest infections. If you need to cough, hold a pillow against your chest to support your ribs[^2^]. You can also take 10 slow, deep breaths every hour to help expand your lungs[^1^].
Resting and taking time off work if you need to. You should avoid any activities that make your pain worse or put pressure on your ribs, such as lifting heavy objects, playing sports or exercising. You should also avoid lying down or staying still for too long, as this can cause stiffness and breathing problems.
Walking around and moving your shoulders occasionally. This helps you breathe better and prevents blood clots in your legs.
Stopping smoking if you are a smoker. Smoking can delay healing and increase your risk of chest infections and other complications.
When to see a doctor
Most bruised or cracked ribs heal on their own without any problems. However, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following signs or symptoms:
Severe pain that does not improve with painkillers or ice or heat therapy.
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath that gets worse over time.
Chest pain that spreads to your shoulder, arm, back or jaw.
Coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
A very high temperature or feeling hot and shivery.
A history of lung disease, heart disease or osteoporosis.
These could indicate that you have a more serious injury, such as a broken rib that has damaged your lung, liver aa16f39245