How Long Does It Take for a Rib Cartilage Fracture to Heal?

rib cartilage fracture
Rib Cartilage Fracture

It can be extremely painful to sustain damage to the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone. Rib cartilage fractures normally heal in at least 6 weeks, though healing times can vary.

Your breastbone and the ribs in your ribcage are joined by a cartilage fragment. Your ribcage has some flexibility thanks to this cartilage, which allows it to expand when you breathe.

That cartilage can become damaged by chest injuries.

This page discusses the symptoms of rib cartilage fracture, treatment options, and recovery times.

What is a rib cartilage fracture?

Costal cartilage serves as the direct link between your ribs and the sternum, or breastbone.

Hyaline cartilage, often known as articular cartilage, includes costal cartilage. It helps joints maintain their structure so that bones can travel past one another since it is flexible but smooth.

The cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone, known as the costal cartilage, can break or dislocate if you fall or take a hit to the chest.

Symptoms of a rib cartilage fracture

The following are typical signs of rib cartilage fractures:
  • considerable discomfort at the fracture site
  • Pain that worsens as you breathe deeply
  • hurts to sneeze
  • difficulty coughing
  • discomfort when laying or pressing on the afflicted area.

Diagnosing rib cartilage fractures

According to research from 2022, costal cartilage fractures are frequently overlooked on standard chest X-rays.

It has been discovered that MRI or CT scans are more useful for identifying cartilage damage.

Is a broken rib equivalent to a broken costal cartilage?

One of the rib bones in your rib cage might break or fracture. Even though a rib bone may not be broken, a fractured rib may refer to a break in the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breast bone.

Both fractures of the ribs and fractures of the cartilage often have similar symptoms, treatments, and recovery times.

What are the symptoms of rib cartilage fractures and how long does it take for them to heal?

Rib cartilage fractures can take at least 6 weeks to heal, and occasionally even longer, although recovery times can vary. Rib cartilage injuries can require up to 6 months to recover.

Wearing a cast is not an option for rib cartilage fractures (or even rib bone fractures), in contrast to fractures of the arm or leg.

To treat and recover from a cartilage fracture, usually:
  • rest
  • using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications when necessary
  • putting ice bags on the injured area
  • putting on a brace
  • avoiding sports and other activities that can exacerbate the pain or the injury itself
  • when bending or twisting, use caution
On rare occasions, you could require surgery to implant a plate in your chest to aid with cartilage displacement or other issues.

It can be simpler to navigate rehabilitation if you can manage your pain effectively during the healing process. Rib fracture pain is occasionally treated with lidocaine patches and opioid drugs. However, because narcotic painkillers are addicting, specialists warn that there are downsides.

What typically causes a rib cartilage fracture?

Rib cartilage fractures can be brought on by:
  1. Sports injuries: Injuries to the rib cartilage can occur during sports like football, wrestling, or jiu-jitsu that require strenuous arm motions or powerful hits to the chest.
  2. Work injuries: The rib cartilage may fracture or dislocate when heavy machinery impacts the chest.
  3. Car accidents: Rib cartilage and rib bone fractures can result from high-impact car accidents, often known as blunt force trauma.
  4. Falls: Rib cartilage may be harmed by falls onto hard surfaces, such as those sustained while motorcycling, skiing, or ice skating.
  5. Coughing: Despite being less frequent, persistent coughing left untreated can harm the rib cartilage.


Your ribcage may sustain an injury, including a potential rib cartilage fracture, if you are hurt in a car accident or while participating in sports.

The healing process and most of the pain relief could take around 6 weeks. In the interim, discuss with your doctor the best precautions to take to prevent exacerbating the discomfort associated with a rib fracture.


How long does it take to recover from a cartilage rib injury?

12 weeks or more

Why does rib cartilage take so long to heal?

Lack of active blood flow

How can I heal my rib cartilage fast?

Treatment of rib injuries

How do you sleep with a rib cartilage injury?


Which rib is the most painful to break?

Lateral region fractures

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