A rib breaks

A cautionary tail about the unintended consequences of an innocent act:

A couple of weeks ago, while sitting on my office chair, I reached down to the floor to retrieve a piece of paper that had fallen. I stretched and tried to nab that paper. As I stretched, I pressed my ribcage ever tighter against the arm of the armchair.

Then I heard a ‘pop’. And felt a twinge of pain.

I thought “What was that? Did I just pull a muscle?” I rubbed the spot and knew that muscle soreness would take a week or more to go away.

I went about my life. The dull pain was with always present in the background, but I ignored it because it was pretty ‘dull’. I continued to hit the gym and jog, which only inflamed the pain temporarily. But it was tolerable.

Then, on Sunday, I stooped down to tie my shoes. That was tough to do for some reason and required an extra stretch. It seemed to inflame the pain, but I went about my business.

That night I slumped back in the coach and watched TV, but my posture seemed to bring an added sharp stinging pain from the area of my suspected muscle pull. Any move was greeted with excruciating pain. I could not get up from the coach. I also had a great deal of trouble breathing. Only short shallow breathes were possible because deep breathes were accompanied by sharp pain. A bit panicked at this point and unable to ever get up, I wanted for the pain to subside and the breathing to become less labored. I contemplated calling ‘911’ but really couldn’t reach the phone.

I had my iPad with me; so I decided to Google ‘fractured rib symptoms’. All that I was enduring were consistent with this type of injury. I really couldn’t believe it.

As the pain subsided and I was able to delicately rise from the couch, I walked – shuffled really – around the room still gasping to catch my breath, which I eventually did.

That night was tough. I couldn’t lay down to sleep and It was difficult to find a painless position on the couch to prop myself so that I could rest without pain. I nodded off from time to time, but it was a very difficult night. I was so worried about tweaking that pain and setting off the whole thing over again. I think the breathing difficulty was the most troubling and I thought hard about driving over to the ER. But by that time it was 3:30 am and I was managing to keep things contained.

Besides, WebMD and other sites all said there is nothing to do but rest and use basic pain medicine if needed. And this could last for 6-8 weeks! (so much for the summer and my plans to get in running shape for a few 10K’s!)

The next day seemed better. By being still that night, I seemed to be a bit more mobile (ever so gingerly though) and went over to my brother’s for a BBQ. He had broken some ribs years ago and could sympathize with all that I was going though.

Unfortunately, as I explained how this thing happened – along with gesturing the moves I made to trigger the stinging pain – it happened again! And I was unable to catch my breathe as I writhed in pain. He helped me up from the couch and I shuffled around the room to regain my breathe.

It settled down again, but this is what I have in store for a few days or weeks as my ribs slowly heal.

Last night (night 2 of the “incident”), I again slept propped up on the coach. I’m happy to report that I awake to only general stiffness from the way I was resting, and not sharp stinging chest pain. I’ve been careful of my movements today to avoid tweaking the rib. So far, so good. And it will be tenuous day by day I suppose.

A couple of tips:

1 – don’t reach over the air rail of the chair to pick something up!
2 – avoid watching comedies on TV because laughing definitely WILL trigger a sharp stinging pain.
3 – do rest alot

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