Rib subluxation is a condition in which a rib is off alignment. The resulting pain can be as benign as mild pain when taking a deep breath or as serious as pain around the heart and difficulty breathing. Therefore, rib subluxations can often go without diagnosis--or rather, they're mistakenly diagnosed as much more critical problems. Luckily, once a rib subluxation is correctly identified, treatment is simple and relatively quick.
How It Happens
Rib subluxation can be caused by anything which stretches the rib or puts pressure on the sternum. Many activities can do this--some chiropractors say it can be something as innocuous as a strong sneeze.
Ribs have flexibility from the joints where they attach to the sternum, or breast bone. Between the ribs and the sternum is flexible cartilage and a joint, which can allow some movement. If the rib moves and doesn't flex back into place, the stuck rib is known as a rib subluxation.
Chiropractors address rib subluxation. In the simple and straightforward cases, a Chiropractor will have the patient lie facing down and will give a swift, strategic thrust to the back--which usually pushes the rib back into place.
In cases where the pain is acute near the sternum--cases which often feel like heart pain--the chiropractor will take a slightly different approach. Typically, she will run her hands up and down the length of the rib, applying pressure in small amounts as her hands travel. This treatment goes right up to the breastbone. The treatment is usually completed with the same type of prone back thrust as described above.
Some patients with rib subluxation may turn to the stretching and movements of yoga for relief. It's a good idea to let a yoga instructor know about a rib subluxation before beginning a class. But often the natural poses and stretches of yoga can coax a rib back into place.
One particular treatment is to lay yoga blocks in a cross-like pattern with blocks or bolsters under the back directly below the sternum, and under each shoulder. The body then curves with the breastbone pointed up and head and shoulders being pulled down by gravity. This is essentially a supported backbend. After 10 to 30 minutes, this position can often push a rib back into place using a method is similar to the chiropractor's but gentler and slower.