Rib Dysfunction

Posted on May 14, 2019
Rib Dysfunction

Rib Dysfunction

Have you ever felt a sharp sensation around your shoulder blade or mid-back during certain twisting, lifting and abrupt movements? Chances are you may be experiencing dysfunction around your rib joint/s. Read on to find out more…


What is rib dysfunction?

Rib dysfunction occurs when there is a misalignment of a rib/s on the thorax. This results in mechanical dysfunction, restriction, dislodgement or inflammation between your ribs and their attachment sites. Due to the anatomy of a rib joint, dysfunction of this area can cause immense, debilitating pain.


The thoracic (mid-back) region typically has 12 vertebrae and 24 ribs. These vertebrae connect and articulate with ribs via the costovertebral and costotransverse joints which are held together by ligaments. These joints have a blood and nerve supply which subjects them to a great deal of inflammation and pain when irritated.


Rib dysfunction is caused by a variety of contributing factors. These include:

  • Recent trauma
  • Recent illness that generates constant coughing motion
  • Prolonged, poor posture
  • Awkward sleeping patterns
  • Weak back muscles
  • Repetitive stress
  • Stationary desk work

What does rib dysfunction feel like?

Typically patients will describe a deep, dull ache around between the spine and shoulder blade. This pain will fluctuate or become sharp with activities such as coughing, sneezing, twisting, lifting or bending. At times symptoms may refer into the arm or neck, with tenderness reported around the front of one’s chest bone.


  • Diffuse, deep, dull ache
  • Sharp, severe pain with laughing, coughing & sneezing
  • Abdominal and/or chest pain
  • Feelings of ‘clicking’ or ‘popping’
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained back pain
  • Postural imbalance



Here at Dr7 Physiotherapy and Podiatry Yokine all of our practitioners have the expertise to correctly diagnosis, treat and manage symptoms associated with rib dysfunction. Most presentations will require a rib joint manipulation and soft tissue release around the site of injury. Some cases are resolved immediately with others requiring multiple treatments/adjustments to completely alleviate symptoms

Once the acute, sharp pain has been resolved our practitioners at Dr7 Physiotherapy Tuart Hill will undertake a biomechanical assessment and provide exercises and/or strategies to prevent further aggravation. It is important to correct the underlying structural abnormality to prevent frequent and chronic rib shifts.


When to consult with a Medical practitioner

If you are concerned about your chest / rib pain it is very important to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider or emergency department. Some examples are:

  • Patients with fever or a severe cough
  • Left-sided chest pain radiating into the jaw and left arm
  • Extreme difficulty breathing



  1. Avoid awkward, sustained postures such as hunching and prolonged reaching as a desk
  2. Avoid lifting to holding objects with outstretched arms
  3. Review with a Physiotherapist at Dr7 to assess and correct structural abnormalities
  4. Strengthen the muscles that attach to and control the rib cage

If you think you are experiencing rib dysfunction book an appointment at Dr7 Physiotherapy and Podiatry Yokine.

Dr7 Physiotherapy and Podiatry provides services to the suburbs of Yokine, Tuart Hill, Osborne Park, Stirling, Nollamara, Dianella, North Perth and surrounding suburbs. Our friendly Physiotherapists and Podiatrists have appointments available Monday-Saturday.

Bookings are available on our website or over the phone.