Rib/chest injuries

Well, after being free of major injuries for years, I’m back in the dumps.

Last July I did something to my left shoulder–it was a one-time combination of letting the arm get too far behind me and then the paddle blade catching on something below. The pain went away, leaving slight restriction of motion, not too bad. I continued paddling, sculling, rolling the rest of the season without any pain or problem (now keeping in mind not to let the arm get in a bad position). In December, while shoveling snow that had to be pitched over my head (too much piled too high already from other storms), I must’ve done further damage to it. The pain was instant and intense. Range of motion became more limited, so I went to a specialist and then a PT. Started PT for it, which made it feel a little better. Got the go-ahead to VERY CAREFULLY paddle on my winter getaway to the Corpus Christi area. After paddling, the shoulder actually felt better and regained some range of motion. That was the last good news.

Last Sunday I slipped on the steepest part of our driveway, which had become a sheet of ice that overnight snow then covered. I didn’t even see the hit coming, it was so fast on that grade. I couldn’t even get up for several minutes and was gasping for air, in sharp pain. Finally I crawled back in the house. Went to the ER, where they said “Don’t see anything broken” but that bruised ribs could be as painful as broken ones. Certain places were extremely painful to touch, and it felt like a lot of stuff inside was clunking around. If I even started to cough or laugh, my whole left side would freeze up in a giant spasm.

Five days later the pain had diminished (still on Percocet), but the clunking and “point sensitivity” persisted. Still some spasms, though not as severe, and I could take deep breaths more often. I went to my regular doctor, who said there were no clear-through bone breaks (would have shown up on the x-rays), but that he could detect a clicking in the most painful spot. Said it was probably fractured, but no point in x-raying again because treatment was identical for fractured or bruised ribs. Also said some cartilage might be deformed–permanently. I have places where it is lumpier than the right side, and it wasn’t like that before. And the shoulder (same side) has regressed.

Yesterday, one week after it happened, I went for a slow walk. Other than some expected soreness, it didn’t seem to bother the iinjuries. I don’t mind laying low for a while. But I’m worried about long-term prospects for full healing.

I will talk to my PT next.

Meanwhile, I would like to hear if any of you have experience with rib injuries. A friend who fractured 3 ribs punctured his lung 8 days afterward; fortunately he is all healed up now. There are a lot of Internet posts about the subject, but I get the impression many of those guys didn’t get x-rays and/or resumed sports too soon.

So sorry
to here that it was that serious. Take good care of yourself. I may need a paddling partner if I head out west this summer.


Long Term Prospects
I would bet in a month you’ll be just about pain-free. I think six weeks is the standard bone healing time.

I fell off a ladder some years back and cracked a rib or two. Not only did the chest hurt but the next morning I woke up with a tremendous headache. I’m sure the headache was from hardly breathing through the night. It hurt too much to breathe deeply.

I’m sure you’ll heal quickly. Better to get hurt now than in the warm weather!

Doc said about 6 wks till
I could resume normal activities. He also said I’d “be feeling it” for 3 months.

It’s at least 4 wks till ice-out anyway. I will force myself to wait at least the 6 wks, then take it super-easy.

But it sucks not being able to do crunches or pushups for that long. I’ve never had such a long layoff from sport.

I may be hanging out more than usual in Pnet. But I promise not to post lists of other people’s kayaks.

Ribs likely will be fine in 4-6 weeks. If you can manage some mild aerobic activity, say riding an exercise bike or elliptical trainer, that’d be helpful. Just don’t ride/run through major pain. Bigger concern is that your shoulder will freeze up from activity restriction associated with the rib injury. If I were you, I’d ask for an MRI of that shoulder so you know exactly what your dealing with and then work with your PT on ROM/flexibility at a minimum while your ribs heal.

Good luck,


Who was very happy to sell the snow blower and move to NC!

Still planning to paddle
I just can’t get the early start I’d envisioned, and the shoulder poses some lingering questions. I’m already having paddling dreams, like the summer dreams I have in mid-winter.

By the time you would come out to the mtns, I should have been paddling at least a couple months. If all goes well, I am going to have one heck of a celebration.

I’ve had good luck with rib injuries

– Last Updated: Feb-25-08 4:55 PM EST –

Many years ago, I got a cracked rib while Tai Kwon Do sparring. I can't even remember which rib it was, but I remember that even after the pain died away, there was some clicking from broken cartilage for months. My recollection of exactly what was injured in that case is so sketchy that I'm not sure if it might have been the same injury which, years later, "let go" after a couple of months of lifting very heavy and awkward concrete samples out of a water tank many times per day (laboratory testing). In that case, one of the cartilage connections to my breastbone came unhooked and started clicking. That connection still clicks fairly easily, though not as readily as it used to, but there hasn't been any pain of any kind since the initial pain died away after a few months, and it does not hinder my activity in any way.

I went to see a doctor regarding my first rib injury (the cracked rib), and the doctor said it was very common for damaged cartilage to continue giving a clicking sensation for years, or even forever, but that it's almost never a problem that concerns a person (meaning there's normally no pain or other discomfort).

Your shoulder injury sounds like something that will need PT for a while, but based on my experience and what the doctor told me years ago, the rib injury is likely to end up being fine.

I’m actually more worried about the shoulder losing mobility and strength during this period. Paddling seemed to make it better on both counts.

The shoulder doc was putting off MRI till after I finish initial PT (6 sessions). Who knows now.

Thanks for the encouraging post
I agree about the clicking/clunking. My left shoulder was originally injured in a bike crash when I was 19. It has been funky ever since but, till recently, never restricted me from doing what I wanted to.

Geez, some of us middle-aged and older active people are getting to be a bucket of bolts strung together!

Ribs heal

– Last Updated: Feb-25-08 5:05 PM EST –

I cracked a couple a couple years ago after getting hit by a car. Did not notice it for a couple days after when I went for a paddle. Took about a week to stop hurting ( moving furniture and having a bunch of dust trigger some asthma did not help much, but keeping active and mobile did.

Believe it or Not
A little shoulder pain can help your paddle stroke. I had a rotator cuff injury about three years ago and went paddling despite some leftover pain. I found I would DEFINITELY put a lot of torso in my stroke to prevent / reduce the pain in the shoulder.

When I was a teenager
I was doing something called “gelande jumping” which is now called X-treme free style skiing. I landed on my ribs after flying about 120 ft through the air. Several cracked ribs. Very painful for several weeks. but I was about 15 and healed fast. I got pleurisy (spelling?) inflammation of the lining of the chest cavity later that year. I spent about 3 days in the hospital and missed about a month of school and could not breath very well for about 6 months. Got me out of Gym class in 10th grade, which I loved, our coach was a pr**K.

Move south. Ice is dangerous.

Too Bad
That there is no real “Warranty” on the body

and even if there was…it would only be a limited twenty year one probably not valid in certain states and voided by most physical activities that are fun.

(sad look on face and visably slumps in chair)

Best Wishes


When you finally…
break down, you will recieve a recall to the original maker.

Now, I’m not sure about pro-rating :wink:


ribs and shoulders
Ah…the cracked rib debacle still looms large in my mind at times as it was a very painful injury at the time (severe bike crash) but it did indeed go away with no after effects. But it sure as hell didn’t feel like it would! For a 10 day period I couldn’t sleep well or drink or eat or breathe deeply. The shoulder is the real stinker. Sounds like impingement with perhaps a slight tear in the rotator cuff. (you’d know FOR sure if you had a major tear). As I’ve been through living hell with shoulder issues I’d find the very best PT you can and do what they say diligently. Worked for me in lieu of surgery although since I sleep on the same damn side every stinking night (tried almost everything to stop this!) I have learned that sleeping on my arm is the major culprit for my shoulder pain(s). So don’t worry…maybe have some red wine and slowly do your torso stretches once the pain subsides so you keep your lower back from freaking out.

Smashed ribs
I smashed some ribs in the past where some were broken and some fractured. It was very painful and took about 6 months to heal to where I had no pain. But I did make a complete recovery. During the healing process the only activity I did was walking and later bike riding.

Let pain be your guide …
I know it feels weird and you now can feel bumpy stuff sticking out. Breathe as deep as you can to keep things opened up inside and move as far as pain range will let you go … but DON’T pick up anything heavy … from my experience you can feel all healed up and then pick something up weird and P O P ! start all over again … Can even happen months later …

As soon as you started with the icy driveway story I started to wince.

I Would Worry More About The Shoulder…

– Last Updated: Feb-26-08 6:00 AM EST –

or any joint, over bone. Bruised and occaisonal rib fractures have been standard for me since teen years. No lasting impact. I start to gingerly stretch after first week or two. Otherwise muscles around the area get tight.

Joint injuries I treat much more conversatively by giving much longer rest from hard use (but always with a stretching regiment). Worse shoulder injury was getting an over the shoulder throw onto a wood floor. I landed on my shoulder and opponent landed on me when I pulled him along. Laid off for a good two months from hard workouts (and sparring). Work myself back in with lots of stretching, shadow boxing and then bag work. Knock (softly) on wood... Thankfully, no lasting joint injuries for me, except for bit of worn cartilage behind the knees (from too much running in my younger days).


I injured my right shoulder years ago and it was no fun to say the least. Doc’s will tend to use therapy first before more advanced treatments. I had MRI, Bone Scan, much PT, Ultrasound, drugs, etc. Got 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th opinions from top Chicago specialists. All concluded I would be unable to use my arm (disabled) for much at all-except for my regular Ortho. I ended up with 4 surgeries total on my shoulder. Had the end of my clavicle removed. Doc found a partial tear of my rotator cuff and repaired it during surgery #4 and I began to return to an active life once again. Now, I typically don’t even know there was ever anything wrong with it.

What you describe sounds a lot like a tear but it could just be a bad strain/sprain. You don’t have half the problems I had though so don’t freak out. I was not able to even put my shoes on due to very bad pain most of the time. Just remember that the will to get better will take you a long way in the right direction. I had my low points but put a lot into getting better and it worked.

Best of luck!