You probably don’t think a lot about your ribs and ribcage, but they help sustain many important aspects of your body. In addition to protecting your most vital organs, they also assist you in a pretty important activity: breathing. In addition, your ribcage provides a connecting point for the muscles that control your neck, your pelvis, and your arms.
In order to perform those much-needed tasks, your ribs need to be able to move, and move fluidly. Sometimes, patients struggle in one or more of those areas, as a result of a stiff ribcage. That condition is typically caused by one of these three situations: surgery, blunt trauma, or prolonged sitting.
We’re referring here to surgeries that directly cause trauma to the tissues surrounding the ribcage — surgeries such as mastectomies and open heart surgeries. The muscles, joints, and soft tissue around the ribcage can endure restricted mobility due to scar tissue that builds up after such surgeries.
As a result, a person can deal with restricted and painful breathing. Another potential problem is disturbed sleep, due to pain across the ribcage—particularly for those who sleep on their sides, putting pressure directly on the ribcage.
An automobile accident or fall can be the source of blunt trauma to the ribcage. The resulting inflammation and stiffness to the muscles along the spine and between the ribs can become quite painful.
When movements involving the spine become the source of chronic pain, decreased mobility can result, causing its own set of additional issues, including increased stiffness of the ribcage.
In addition to other issues such as lower back pain and “sitting disease”, sitting in the same position for extended periods of time can prove detrimental to the ribcage. Over time, joints accommodate the position they’re forced to maintain, no matter how far from optimal that may be.
If you look at a computer monitor for hours on end, with your head forward and arms positioned for keyboard use, your ribcage will stiffen in order to help stabilize your poor posture. The common result is chronic neck pain, along with decreased shoulder mobility (particularly seen in decreased ability to reach overhead).
Whatever the cause of your rib mobility issues, the good news is that they can be overcome, with persistent intervention. Along with simple exercises to increase rib mobility, talking with your doctor or rehab professional can put you on the road to recovery.
A diagnosis of rib restriction is not bad news; it’s actually a step in the right direction. You can expect to experience decreased pain and increased mobility over time, as you work with a physical therapist or other medical professional in order to intervene.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
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