Rib pain can be unbearable, making it difficult to breathe or exercise. If your rib is broken or bruised, your doctor has probably explained to you that there's nothing she can do for a broken rib; however, regular stretching can help your ribs heal more quickly and prevent muscle pain in the surrounding areas caused by disuse. Make sure you talk to your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine, especially if you've recently suffered the pain of a rib injury.
A chest stretch is particularly helpful if the pain is in your upper ribs. But even if you're feeling the pain closer to your abdomen, stretching your chest can help prevent the rib pain from spreading to your back and chest. To do this stretch, bend your elbows about 90 degrees and extend your elbows backward. Push your elbows as close together as you can without experiencing pain and hold for one to two seconds. Repeat five to 10 times, two to three times daily.
One of the most important roles of the rib cage is to protect your lungs, and regular breathing stretches your ribs. If you're experiencing rib pain, you might be taking shorter, shallow breaths. Deep breathing exercises can help your ribs heal and safely stretch your ribs. Inhale slowly through your nose for five to 10 seconds and then hold for two counts. Slowly exhale for five to 10 seconds and repeat 10 times several times each day. Although breathing might feel painful, improving blood oxygenation by deep breathing can improve healing time and help your ribs work properly. To add a bit of difficulty to this exercise and improve the stretch, try doing squats while breathing deeply. Simply stand straight and bend your knees while moving your rear backwards as if you are about to sit in a chair. Hold the sitting position for three seconds, and then rise back into a standing position. Exhale as you lower yourself, and inhale as you rise back up.
Some basic yoga poses can provide your ribs with an excellent stretch and help you maintain mobility as your sore ribs heal. The cobra pose stretches your back, ribs and chest. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight, and then raise your torso off the ground, bending your head back toward your feet and using your arms for support. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and then repeat five to 10 times. The fish pose is a variation on this position done on your back. Lie on your back with your arms straight and pointed toward your legs. Pushing your shoulder blades together, elevate your torso off of the ground so that your upper body forms a U-shape. Hold for five to 10 seconds, release, and repeat five to 10 times.
To stretch the muscles that connect either side of your rib cage, try a simple doorway stretch. Stand in front of a doorway with your elbows bent and your arms on -- not in -- the doorway. Lean forward, pushing your chest through the doorway, and hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat three to five times.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.