Health conditions

Chest injuries and rib fractures

Chest injuries such as rib fractures can occur following an injury to the chest.

Rib pain can also occur following bouts of severe coughing, straining or heavy lifting.

Rib fractures don’t always show on a chest X-ray. Therefore, if complications are not suspected and you are otherwise well, an X-ray may not be required. This especially applies to women who are, or could be pregnant.

The main complication from rib injury is a chest infection. To reduce the risk of this occurring it is important to take regular simple pain relief followed by some deep breathing and coughing exercises.


  • use pain relief prior to exercising
  • gentle exercise such as walking
  • take deep breaths – in through your nose, out through your mouth slowly
  • cough when necessary and hug a pillow over your ribs if it is painful.

Do not:

  • over exert yourself
  • participate in any strenuous activities or contact sports for 4 weeks
  • attempt to lift heavy items.

See a GP or go to an emergency department if any of the following develop:

  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing up any yellow/green or red stained sputum.
  • Chest pain.
  • Passing any blood in your urine and or stools.

Where to get help

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.