Safe Exercises When Recovering from Bruised Ribs

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  • Bruising your ribs can happen during a car accident, while playing sports, or during a fall. Initially, there can be significant discomfort causing you to avoid physical activity of any kind. Bruised rib recovery can include exercise once swelling, pain and soreness start to subside. In fact, it’s important to stay active to avoid fluid buildup in your lungs. However, strenuous exercises, such as lifting heavy weights or movements that involve pushing or pulling can actually do more harm than good. Instead, you should start with safe exercises for bruised ribs and increase your level of activity gradually as your bruised ribs start to heal. Talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

  • 1
    Take a walk.

    Walking remains one of the best low-impact exercises you can do to stay active. However, you should not overdo it during your bruised rib treatment. The primary goal here is movement, so take it easy rather than trying to beat your personal best for walking a mile. Also, don’t set out on a challenging route that includes steep hills or sharp turns. Instead, choose a level path to avoid jarring your bruised ribs. Try to avoid crowded paths as well so you don’t accidently get bumped by others that could aggravate your bruised ribs.

  • 2
    Lateral twists while seated can alleviate stiffness.
    woman in a work chair doing a seated spinal twist to stretch her back

    To keep the area around your spine from becoming stiff, do a few sets of lateral twists while seated. Sitting in a chair, cross your hands across your chest. Gently rotate your body to the left with elbows pointed in the direction you are turning. You should feel the stretch in your upper back. Then turn to the right. Do one set of 10, provided you don’t experience pain. Do these lateral twists three times a day to stretch your back.

  • 3
    Non-strenuous yoga poses can aid in stretching.
    senior man practices yoga asana marjariasana or cat-cow pose at home

    Low-impact yoga poses can help stretch and strengthen your chest during your bruised rib recovery. For instance, try the elevated child’s pose wherein you start on all fours on the ground, then lower your upper body so your hands lie flat on the ground with your hips up. Be sure to keep your head relaxed. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then gradually lower your hips until they rest on your legs. Hold for 20 seconds. If there’s too much pressure on your rib cage, widen the space between your legs.

  • 4
    Go for a swim.
    Senior woman swimming

    Swimming provides low-impact exercise if you don’t overdo it. Start easy by walking in the water, or taking gentle laps around the pool. As long as you do not experience pain, you can increase the intensity of your swimming exercises. For instance, you can start with gentle laps and move to more intense laps if you remain pain-free. Or you can start by walking the length of the pool, and then progress to a jog. Don’t dive or jump into the pool until your bruised ribs are fully healed.

  • 5
    Spend time on a cardio machine.
    senior patient listening to his physical therapist teaching him the correct posture on the static bicycle

    Low-impact cardio machines, such as an elliptical or stationary bike can provide a good workout without putting undue stress on your bruised ribs. Again, don’t go for the full-court press; instead, take it nice and easy to boost your overall endurance and get in a full body workout. As your bruised ribs heal, you can start to kick it up a notch until you’re able to resume your regular level of activity.

  • 6
    Engage in deep breathing.
    unidentifiable woman indoors relaxing, meditating and doing breathing exercises

    To prevent infection, strengthen the muscles between the ribs, and keep your lungs strong, take deep breaths several times a day. If there is severe pain with deep breaths, wait a few more days for soreness to subside. If you experience some soreness with deep breathing, use a pillow to brace yourself and alleviate pain. Check with your doctor to see if you should use a spirometer, a device that measures how much air you breathe in and out.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Bruised rib care. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Rib Fractures and Chest Wall Injuries. Intermountain Healthcare.
  3. Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. Rib Injury Clinic.
  4. 5 Tips on How to Care for Bruised Ribs. SimplyJnJ.

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