Caged to the Pain: A Story About My Ribs
The ribs are an important part of our bodies. They protect our lungs and hearts and other organs like the spleen. They help us breathe by aiding the lungs and they help stabilize the spine.
If something were to happen to them, then the entire body is basically screwed. The rib cage is pretty strong and it takes a massive amount of force to traumatize the area. Unfortunately, if it breaks or bruises, then there’s nothing to do but wait for it to heal.
Of all the things I could talk about I’m harping on about the ribs. Why? Mine are letting me down. I thankfully do not have osteoporosis, or density loss, in these bones but I do suffer from costochondritis, where the cartilage of the rib cage becomes inflamed. (We’ll get to that in a second).
Trauma to my ribs and sternum
Four weeks ago, I experienced a trauma like I mentioned above. I was playing with my puppy and she stamped on my sternum. Ouchies. I experienced a sharp pain I was not accustomed to from my RA. We did not know whether M broke my ribs or I experienced a bad bone bruise. We later confirmed the latter as the sharp pain lessened pretty quickly.
I couldn't breathe or move
I never knew how important my ribs were until this moment and the consequential healing time afterward. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I couldn’t twist my torso, I couldn’t bend forward or backward, and I certainly couldn’t lay down. I don’t know why this surprised me when it even burned to breathe. I will never take breathing for granted again because, at this point, I really wish I didn’t have to!
This is when I truly realized how important my ribs were to my body and wellbeing because, just like with the spine pain I endured last year, there were very few movements that didn’t reverberate to my upper body.
A costochondritis flare up
Now here’s where that other lovely inflammatory condition comes in. Since I injured my ribs at the sternum, my costochondritis flared up even worse because there is a layer of cartilage that connects the front of the ribs to the breastbone.
I was NOT going to increase my steroids just for this (I am extremely sensitive to Prednisone). There was nothing for it except to wait. Once the pain decreased and I regained some mobility in the area, I returned to rock-climbing.
Staying mobile helped with the rib pain
It helped much more than I thought it would. I faced the wall directly so I did not twist my upper body very much. Climbing was also very fluid so I didn’t jerk my rib cage either. The sport also employed every muscle so I didn’t strain any one part and it strengthened everything equally.
Strengthening the muscles around my ribs
It didn’t completely take away the pain but it did strengthen the muscles around my ribs and reduce inflammation as any exercise does. I know rock-climbing is still pretty niche, even though it is continuously growing more popular, so I wonder what other sports could bolster the ribs. Let me know in the comments how you manage your rib pain! What exercises help you?
Check-in: As we start a new year, how are you feeling?