Slipping Rib Syndrome

What is Slipping Rib Syndrome?

Slipping rib syndrome (SR) is a condition where the ribs are not fully extended when lying down. Most commonly it occurs in older adults or those with other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and obesity. It may also occur if there is trauma to the chest area such as being shot or beaten up. SR can cause pain and discomfort which increases during activity. It is usually treated successfully.

The symptoms of SR vary from person to person depending on their age, medical history, and general health status. Symptoms include:

Pain in the upper right side of your chest (ribs). You will feel pain when you breathe in or out. Your breathing rate may increase and then decrease. You may even experience shortness of breath while standing up or walking around.

You may feel like you have a hard time getting enough oxygen into your lungs. If you exercise, you may notice that your arms and legs hurt more than usual. You might also experience weakness in one or both extremities.

Your chest feels tight and sore after exertion. You may need to take frequent breaks from strenuous activities such as running, lifting heavy objects, or doing other vigorous exercises.

Who are at risk of Slipping Rib Syndrome?

Slipping rib syndrome (SR) can occur in anyone whether they are a smoker, drink alcohol excessively, or do not exercise. It is more common in older adults who have poor posture and may suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease, obesity, or other medical conditions. If you have had rib fractures in the past, you may develop slipping rib syndrome.

What are the Causes of Slipping rib Syndrome?

Slipping rib syndrome occurs when one or more of your lower ribs are not fully extended when you lay down to sleep at night. When you lie down, your body weight shifts forward and puts pressure on the lower part of your ribs. Normally, the lungs naturally fill up with air when we breathe in and deflate when we breathe out. However, when the lower ribs are not fully extended, the lungs cannot deflate as they are supposed to do. When this happens, your lungs will push out against the lower part of your ribcage which can cause intense pain.

What are the Risk Factors of Slipping rib Syndrome?

Slipping rib syndrome (SR), also known as “snapping rib syndrome,” can occur in anyone at any age for a number of reasons. Some risk factors of this condition include:

Older adults are more likely to have slipping rib syndrome due to the weakening of the cartilage and tendons that support the rib cage. When you lie down, the chest cavity becomes more narrow which can put pressure on your lower ribs.

with old or weak bones and osteoporosis are more prone to this condition.

Being overweight can place additional pressure on the lower ribs.

Smoking can lead to poor blood flow to the lungs, which can worsen pain caused by slipping rib syndrome.

being female, especially after menopause, as women have a natural decrease in estrogen which contributes to weakening bones and cartilage

What are the Treatment Options for Slipping rib Syndrome?

If you think you have this condition, see your physician immediately. He or she will give you a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history and family history. He or she may also order X-rays or other tests to rule out more serious conditions that may be causing your pain such as a collapsed lung, broken rib, pneumonia, or a heart condition. Your doctor may refer to a specialist if he or she feels that the condition is more complicated than it appears to be.

Treatments for slipping rib syndrome include physical therapy, pain medication, and wearing a rib belt. You may need to make some lifestyle changes as well such as quitting smoking and losing weight. Your doctor may give you a prescription medication to help with inflammation and pain.

In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to relieve the pressure on your ribs and allow them to slide more easily when you lie down or move about. However, this procedure is fairly risky and may not be appropriate for everyone.

If you have been diagnosed with this condition, it is very important that you move about as little as possible. Lifting heavy objects or engaging in any other activity that requires you to strain your chest muscles can severely worsen the pain. Ask someone to help you whenever you need assist with tasks such as lifting, cleaning, or moving.

How can I Prevent Slipping rib Syndrome?

There are several ways that you can prevent slipping rib syndrome from reoccurring or worsening. Some of these tips include:

Avoid lifting heavy objects. If you need to move something heavy, get a team of people to help you.

Do not smoke. Aside from the myriad of other harmful effects smoking has on your body, it can lead to poor blood flow which worsens pain caused by slipping rib syndrome.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight puts additional strain on your ribs.

Sources & references used in this article:

Slipping rib syndrome: Diagnosis using the hooking maneuver by GJ Heinz, DC Zavala – Jama, 1977 –

Slipping-rib syndrome by JT Wright – The Lancet, 1980 – Elsevier

Slipping rib syndrome in childhood by DP Mooney, NA Shorter – Journal of pediatric surgery, 1997 – Elsevier

The slipping rib syndrome by EK Spence, EF Rosato – Archives of Surgery, 1983 –

Slipping rib syndrome in a collegiate swimmer: a case report by BE Udermann, DG Cavanaugh, MH Gibson… – Journal of Athletic …, 2005 –

The slipping rib syndrome in children by DA Saltzman, ML Schmitz, SD Smith… – Pediatric …, 2001 – Wiley Online Library

Surgical treatment of the ‘slipping rib syndrome’ by GP Copeland, DG Machin… – British journal of …, 1984 – Wiley Online Library

Slipping rib syndrome: a place for sonography in the diagnosis of a frequently overlooked cause of abdominal or low thoracic pain by JY Meuwly, S Wicky, P Schnyder… – Journal of ultrasound in …, 2002 – Wiley Online Library