Chest Pain Cause Non Cardiac Bone Damage

Chest pain linked to bone damage is usually caused by a fractured or bruised rib. A fully broken rib can cause serious chest pain by puncturing a lung or causing bleeding in the chest cavity. More often, bone damage is limited to a fractured or bruised rib, which, while painful, rarely causes serious complications.

Chest Pain Caused by Bone Damage

Chest pain caused by bone damage can come from a variety of sources. By far the most common cause of a fractured or broken rib is blunt trauma, either due to a fall, car accident or contact sport.

Osteoporosis increases the risk of a fractured rib. If bone density if low enough, a person with osteoporosis can break a rib with violent coughing.

While not a common cause of a fractured rib, a cancerous lesion on a rib can weaken the bone, increasing the risk of chest pain caused by bone damage.

Leaning over a hard surface, especially for a long period of time, can result in a painful bruised rib. Age also increases the risk of broken ribs, as bones become less flexible as people age.

Symptoms of a Fractured Rib

Chest pain is the most noticeable symptom of a fractured rib. Chest pain caused by bone damage is usually localized near the break or fracture. Other symptoms of a fractured rib include:

  • a feeling of abnormal rib movement
  • an increase of pain if the broken rib is touched
  • chest pain when coughing
  • worsening pain when twisting or bending.

Symptoms of a fractured rib are similar to bruised rib symptoms. Fractured rib pain may be more severe than the chest pain associated with a bruised rib. An X-ray is necessary to determine if a rib is fractured or broken.

Complications of a Broken Rib

A seriously broken rib can damage surrounding tissue in addition to causing chest pain. If a broken rib pierces the chest cavity, hemothorax can occur. Hemothorax refers to bleeding within the chest cavity.

A broken rib may also puncture a lung. Air leaks into the chest cavity, resulting in a collapsed lung, or pneumothorax. Depending on the severity of the damage, both pneumothorax and hemothorax may require treatment.

Fractured Rib Treatment

Fractured rib treatment is relatively straightforward. Analgesics, or painkillers, are given for chest pain. Rest is recommended, and ice is applied to the fractured rib to reduce swelling.

A broken rib is not splinted or immobilized, as rib movement is required for proper breathing. Immobilizing a rib increases the risk of pneumonia.

Chest pain from a fractured or bruised rib can also interfere with proper breathing, so your doctor may recommend deep breathing or controlled coughing to lower the risk of pneumonia. Both these practices will temporarily worsen chest pain but are necessary precautions.

Other than pain management, time is the most effective fractured rib treatment. Chest pain will diminish as bone damage heals and may disappear within two to three weeks. To avoid re-injuring a fractured or broken rib, strenuous activity should be avoided for up to two months.

When Chest Pain is Serious

Chest pain due to bone damage is not necessarily serious unless extensive trauma occurs. Most people who require treatment for a fractured rib suspect they have a broken rib and can usually recall the event that caused the bone damage.

Chest pain that develops suddenly, without any apparent cause, is often a sign of a heart attack or other serious health condition. Serious chest pain may also radiate, while a bruised or fractured rib tends to cause localized pain.

If you experience any of the following symptoms with chest pain, seek medical attention as soon as possible:

  • dizziness or confusion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain radiating down either or both arms
  • pain radiating to the neck or back
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating.

As a general rule, unexplained chest pain that persists for longer than five minutes requires medical attention. It may be that the pain is due to minor bone damage, but chest pain should not be ignored. Many life-threatening conditions can cause chest pain, so it’s far better to seek medical attention than to try and wait out the pain.


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