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Includes Expert Content
Rib or Muscle injury; chest
Bybzuck posted:
I felt a distinct pop around the lowest rib on the left side of my chest while playing basketball. My arms were entangled with another player and I was exerting a lot of upper body strenght as I was falling backwards. I then felt the pop and have since been experiencing a tightness at that spot as well as some back pain in the same area. I'm having a hard time bending, standing, and twisting. Could this be a pulled/torn muscle or is it more likely to be a rib fracture? it's also tender to the touch and coughing is painful.
Mary Ann Wilmarth, PT, DPT, OCS responded:
A pulled or torn muscle as well as a rib fracture may all give symptoms similar to the ones that you are describing. This could be with the larger muscles and also down to the intercostal, between the rib, muscles. Because breathing will expand or stretch these same, you can also have difficulty breathing and coughing.

The initial treatment for this would be rest. It can take several weeks for things to resolve. Sometimes you can splint the area for pain relief, but you must always maintain your breathing capacity.

In order to determine whether or not it is a rib fracture you would need imaging such as an xray. Your primary care doctor can assist you with this.

This type of injury can cause nagging long term problems if not taken care of properly in the short term. A physical therapist can work with you to ensure that your flexibility, strength and breathing return to normal. Look under "find a PT" at for a physical therapist in your area.

If you have trouble breathing or cough up any blood, then contact your physician immediately.

The most important thing is to take care of this properly so that you can be back playing basketball before you know it.

Dr. Wilmarth

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