Ribs move constantly at their spinal attachments as you breathe and move your body. Ribs attach to the sternum by means of cartilage, allowing some movement when the chest inflates with a breath. If a rib moves and doesn’t go back to its normal position, its new, painful position is known as a rib subluxation.

You may experience pain when you take a deep breath or discomfort that radiates around to the chest, which may be mistaken for more serious conditions (i.e. heart attack). The radiation is due to the new strain pattern around the rib cage from the malposition. The Intercostal Muscles, which are located between each rib, are affected and form painful trigger points if the malposition is not corrected.


The most common way to get a subluxated rib is coughing/sneezing violently or repetitively. Others ways include sleeping in an awkward position, direct trauma or pulling a muscle attached to the rib. The pinpoint pain at the thoracic rib attachment and pain during inhalation is a good way to determine the presence of this ailment.


Chiropractic Adjustments are the best way to alleviate pain due to its ability to un-fixate or free up the joint. Addressing the surrounding soft tissue is important as this will keep the joint from returning to the malposition. Techniques such Graston therapy, rapid release & ultrasound are some of the more common tools used to soften the surrounding musculature. A foam roller can be a great way to loosen the fascia at home and are inexpensive to purchase. Heat may alleviate the pain temporarily, but the stiffness will return once the muscle cools down. Ice is recommended to numb the region, but also inhibit inflammation and swelling after treatment.