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Torn Cartilage in Ribs

Torn Cartilage in Ribs

Costal cartilage refers to bars of hyaline cartilage that attach the ends of the first seven pairs of the ribs to the sternum, and the next three pairs also attach to the costal cartilage of the seventh pair of ribs. One is likely to suffer from painful breathing if the costal cartilage gets damaged due to an injury or medical conditions. This write-up explains when one may suffer from torn cartilage in ribs along with ways to treat the same.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
The human rib cage is basically an arrangement of twelve pairs of elongated curved bones called ribs, a T-shaped bone called sternum, bars of hyaline cartilage called costal cartilages and twelve thoracic vertebrae. The costal cartilage not only connect the ends of the ribs to the sternum, these along with the intercostal muscles, permit the ribcage to expand and drop during inhalation and exhalation respectively. No wonder, damage to costal cartilage causes painful or labored breathing.
Causes and Symptoms
The costal cartilage could get torn if one suffers from a rib injury. Those suffering from osteoporosis are more vulnerable to such injuries. Costal cartilage may develop tears in event of the following:
Injuries
  • The ribs or the cartilaginous structures of the rib cage can get damaged due to a forceful blow to the chest or in event of crush injuries wherein a heavy object falls on the chest.
  • Rib injuries could also occur during a motor vehicle accident.
  • One may suffer from rib injury if one falls from a great height.
Costochondritis
Inflammation of costal cartilage is medically referred to as costochondritis. At times, the ribs could even tear away from the costal cartilage. Under such circumstances, one is diagnosed with costochondral separation. Cartilage may get inflamed if one ends up slamming his/her chest against the steering wheel in a motor vehicle accident.
Intercostal Strain
Intercostal strain could also occur in case the muscles between the ribs are strained due to forceful swinging of arms. Those who play tennis or golf might be more prone to such strains.

A rib cartilage injury is most likely to cause rib cage pain, swelling or muscle spasms in the rib cage. Since the rib cage is supported by intercostal muscles that allow the ribcage to expand and drop as one inhales and exhales, damage to these muscles is likely to cause painful breathing. Such symptoms might also be experienced in case of bruised ribs, broken ribs or bone fractures.
Treatment
If you have been experiencing pain around your chest, you must consult a doctor soon. An X-ray examination might be able to help the doctors ascertain the extent of injury. Whether it is an intercostal strain or costochondral separation where the rib has been torn loose from the cartilage and has been detached from the sternum, one must take adequate rest and refrain from indulging in any activity that puts pressure on the rib cage. Generally, a fractured rib might take around 6 weeks to heal but healing period might be longer in case of an intercostal separation. Cartilage regeneration could take up to 12 weeks. Application of ice packs and use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs is generally recommended by the doctors.
If you recently suffered from a rib cartilage injury and have been experiencing pain under rib cage, consult a doctor soon. A timely diagnosis and treatment will certainly pave the way for a speedy recovery.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.