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Painful Ribs

15 February, 2022

Painful Ribs

Chest pain and difficulty breathing can be worrying. It's normal to get a little (or a lot) stressed that something is happening with your heart. Once you've been reassured that it's not your heart, what do you do?

Your chest pain grabs when you take a deep breath - and that sets off your anxiety. Twisting and slouching are painful. You dread having to cough.

What Causes Chest Pain?

Once your doctor has given you the tick of approval that your heart and lungs are in tiptop shape, you can be left wondering what's causing your pain. Sometimes it can be referred from your abdominal organs- like heartburn. Frequently though, it can be an injury to your ribs, similar to hurting your knee or back.


Costochondritis is joint inflammation at the front of the rib cage. It often occurs after being unwell or intense exercise.

Tietzes Syndrome

Tietzes Syndrome is similar to costochondritis except that there's swelling and redness seen. It frequently occurs after a cough or cold.

Mid Back Referral

Chest pain can be referred from the thoracic spine, also called the mid back. It can make movements of the spine difficult and painful, and may be caused by slouching posture.


Fibromyalgia is defined by widespread pain but one of the common locations is the chest. Fibro is a complex condition -- frequently it's associated with "fibro brain" and fatigue. It's more than just the pain.


Various types of arthritides can occur at the ribs and breastbone. These might include rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and others.

Muscle Spasms

There's lots of muscles in the chest. This includes the pecs, muscles reaching around from the back, small muscles between the ribs and the start of the abdominal muscles. Like any other muscle, these can get pulled, strained and go into spasm.

Treatment for Painful Ribs

Clenching at chest
Clenching at chest

Chest pain is a common and usually easily-treated condition seen in Chiropractic and Osteopathic clinics.

Treatment might include:

  • Adjustments to the spine or ribs
  • Massage to the small muscles around the ribs
  • Dry needling
  • Cupping
  • Home exercises
  • Stretches

Frequently chest pain is seen with other postural changes, like the head poking forwards or the pelvis tilting. This can in-turn place extra pressure on the ribs so the whole body is assessed and treated accordingly.

Appointments available in Moonee Ponds or online.

About the Author

Dr Tonilee Pelz - Chiropractor & Pilates Instructor

Dr Tonilee has completed the two year Chiropractic Sport Science certificate. She may assess your squat, adjust your gym program or massage while you move. Sports Chiropractors use a range of techniques according to your injury. She's also a trained Pilates Instructor with specialised training in pre and post-natal Pilates.

Dr Anthony Lugara - Chiropractor

As a Chiropractor, Dr Anthony loves using a range of techniques to see the best results for his clients. Along with adjustments, he incorporates cupping, dry needling, massage and home exercise programs. He's passionate about seeing people feel their best at any age.