The joints which attach the ribs to the spine are moveable joints just like those between the vertebrae or joining the bones of the fingers, elbow or knee. Movement at these joints is necessary when we breathe, twist or turn. Like other joints of the body, these joints can become locked or fixed in an abnormal position. This may happen gradually, causing slow onset of stiffness, shortness of breath or chest pain, or it can happen suddenly, causing sharp, debilitating pain, difficulty taking a breath and an inability to lie flat or find a comfortable position. If these joints are moving abnormally or are out of alignment, this can also put strain on the cartilage at the front of the rib cage, causing pain to be felt in the chest. This may cause alarm, mimicking heart or lung disorders.
The most common causes of rib problems are reaching, twisting, falls, or activities such as archery, raking or sweeping, which use the middle back and rib cage as a fulcrum. Another common cause is an acute or chronic neck problem which causes a pull on the long muscles joining the neck and ribs. Motor vehicle accidents may cause rib problems through a pull on the neck muscles or from gripping the steering wheel while the body is thrown forward.
Problems with the alignment or movement of the ribs are extremely painful, but they can be diagnosed and corrected by your chiropractor. Even if the acute episode has passed, it is important to have the cause corrected to prevent it from recurring. If you suspect you may have a condition related to improper function of the rib cage, consult your family chiropractor. Such conditions are easily detected and treated to prevent pain and disability in the future.
Pain in the Ribs
The rib cage functions to protect the lungs and heart and serves as an attachment for the diaphragm, making breathing possible. The rib cage is made up of twelve pairs of ribs, attached to the spine by moveable joints. The first ten pairs of ribs are also attached at the front to cartilage, which in turn is attached to the breast bone. The last two pairs of ribs are called the "floating" ribs because they do not join the other ribs at the front.