The twelve ribs start at the base of the neck with the first, actually above the collar bone. This is a small rib that acts as a large muscle attachment point for many neck muscles. Issues here can feel like neck problems and often be associated with them due to muscle spasm and pain in the numerous nerves of the brachial plexus that travel over the rib and between muscles.
The functions of the ribs are to protect the lungs and heart as well as be the point of contact for many of the arm and trunk muscles. The other function is to assist with breathing alongside the diaphragm and pec muscles. The lungs are ‘stuck’ to the inside of the ribs and as you contract the intercostal muscles and breathe in the lung is pulled out and the air is drawn in.
Conditions in the ribs are most commonly the acutely painful rib bruising or fractures. Please get these looked at because of the potential complications. Even if it is not fractured and you have to just rest, the stiffness that then follows from this in the trunk and rib cage can lead onto longer-term postural and rib function issues. So once you have recovered from the fractures or bruising this should not be just forgotten. Postural aches, issues with stitches and breathing patterns can just rumble on.
We see a lot of rib issues in people with desk jobs due to the poor postures they exhibit daily and the stiffness that builds up in the rib cage. There is often a lot of ache in the mid back and problems when exercising.
Breathing issues in runners are common and the deeper stitch type pain can be a real problem. The rotation required of the trunk and rib cage to run properly can often be restricted due to the stiffness in many or a few segments. This maybe doesn’t show up as a local pain in the ribs, but can change the gait pattern and give issue further down the chain such as Achilles and shin issues. These long term issues should involve assessment of the upper back as well as the spine and pelvis to reach a full diagnosis of the causes.
Ribs are clearly one of those areas that are overlooked as possible issues, but with the huge number of attachments from the neck and shoulders through to the trunk/core muscles as well as the huge part they play in breathing and actions like walking and running, they really should not be!
We love ribs!