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Climbing with a broken rib

Original Post
Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 130

How soon do you start climbing after breaking a rib?

I cracked a rib on an approach in the Wind Rivers back in early July and reinjured it with a spill off my bike last weekend. After the first injury I was willing to give it a few months to heal up but after putting my self back to square one I'm not liking the sound of sitting on the couch for a few months to a few years to fully heal.

I went to the doctor after rebreaking things and he basically said that I can't hurt it any more as long as I don't keep hitting my ribs on things (though he also suggested I avoid hanging off my arms on roofs and stuff for a while). Since so much of what to expect seems to be anecdotal, I'd be curious to hear what others have done coming back from breaking a rib(s). Is grunting through the pain and loading up on IB profen okay? How did you maintain your upper body strength without the ability to hang off your arms? Any suggestions on what not to do?

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

I'm thinking your Dr. is a better source of information here than MP, but I don't think there is much you can do to damage it aside from falling or squeezing through an offwidth.

I have broken ribs in the past, but it was before I was a climber. I found that having one of those abdominal binders around my ribs helped to cut down on pain. It seemed especially helpful when sleeping. It just seems to keep things snugged up and supported so that there is less pain.…

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Are you looking for approval to climb from MP? I hereby give you my approval. There, settled.

Seriously, follow whatever advice your doctor gave you about limiting activity. If you have further questions, ask your doctor.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

Its a rib, like a broken toe. Use it when it stops hurting so much you cant use it.

Joey Wolfe · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,020

I didn't even try to climb for 6 weeks.

Couldn't really climb until 8/9 weeks.

Had pain and soreness (unrelated to movement, just general) in the area for over a year.

Don't stress your self out about getting weak. It will come back fast once you can move with little to no pain. If you try to train with pain, you'll just move weird and may cause other problems.At first I just climbed adventure climbs that were mostly on my feet to keep occupied, and half of that time I was BC skiing.

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 130
Joey Wolfe wrote:I didn't even try to climb for 6 weeks. Couldn't really climb until 8/9 weeks.
This was my experience the first time around, and I was at bout 9.5 weeks when I started the cycle all over again. However I kind of felt like part of my aversion to climbing was the fear of making it worse. Which hopefully isn't possible. I climbed Royal Flush a few days after cracking it the first time and it was pretty painful, but looking back I doubt that really made it any worse.

Ryan Hamilton wrote: I found that having one of those abdominal binders around my ribs helped to cut down on pain.
This isn't recommended treatment anymore do to the risk of pneumonia but I imagine that using it during activity might be something worth looking into.

I appreciate all the responses. To be clear I'm not asking MP for medical advice but rather what to expect/how hard to push it. As the offspring of two doctors and heading down that path my self, I'm very aware of the importance of seeking proper medical care. That said anecdotal experiences from people who use their bodies in this particular way is highly appreciated and probably more useful for this particular injury.
Walter Edly · · Thomasville NC · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 10

I would rest until coughing and laughing no longer hurt. But I am a poor replacement for a doctor...

Rich Welker · · Riverside, CA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 145

Just sprinkle some Robitussin on it! It fixes all. God speed.

nkane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 90

I would definitely be careful about reinjuring it. I reinjured my broken rib doing all kinds of stupid things, including shoveling snow, using a hangboard, using a stairmaster wrong, and trying to climb. Being dumb probably set my recovery back an extra month.

And while every rib injury is different, keep in mind that many rib injuries include damage to the intercostal muscles, which can be hurt by pulling and twisting motions. Give it a break until you're sure it's better is my advice.

john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

He's not looking for approval, he's asking for advice. There's a lot of Doc's who don't really know that much...just like anyone else.

Advice, i broke one rib and screwed up a couple of was reasonable after a month but not really good for maybe 6-8 weeks. I might advise not taking any long falls for a while, but unless you do something crazy it will mend

Bill Czajkowski · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 30

I broke 4 in a single fall a few years back. 8 weeks, good to go.

Benjamin Chapman · · Small Town, USA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 13,397 ask the Dr., he gave you his opinion...just follow it. Why are you questioning the Dr's recommendation and asking advice on MP?? Lay off strenuous activities that could aggravate the rib/connective tissues for 6-8 weeks. Pretty simple.

Eli · · GMC3500 · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,785

Just climb run out slab for 6-8 weeks is what I'm reading.

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 130
Benjamin Chapman ask the Dr., he gave you his opinion...just follow it. Why are you questioning the Dr's recommendation and asking advice on MP?? Lay off for 6-8 weeks Simple!
The physician I spoke to recommended taking 800 mg of ibuprofen and then go do whatever I want (aka not mandating time off). This seemed fine for walking the dog but maybe not as applicable to rock climbing. I figured I'd ask others on Mountain Project what their experiences were. I certainly appreciate all the responses, and hope that my recovery trends towards the 8 weeks and not 1 year time frame. In the mean time I guess I will do whatever I can without intense pain, and try to avoid falling. I am a little worried about those connected intercostal muscles, when this first happened I thought that I had just strained one of them, so I suppose not aggravating them is something for me to keep in mind.
john strand · · southern colo · Joined May 2008 · Points: 1,640

A second opinion from an educated source is NEVER a bad idea.."the doctor said so" doesn't fly anymore, at least not for me.

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Pinedale, WY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 210

Took a fall in the Winds and broke a rib as well. I waited two weeks and felt fine other than pain in that area. I was back climbing again, although not hard, two weeks after that. Honestly with a rib, I think healing times are so different that you have to decide for yourself when the right time is. Easy hiking and scrambling are not going to hurt your recovery any more than sitting on the couch for a month, but when you can comfortably exercise without the area hurting, I think you're good to go. I would breathe in as deeply as possible and hold it for as long as possible. When I could stand the pain from that, I called it good and started climbing a bit harder. That's probably awful advice, but different strokes for different folks!

Cory Furrow · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25

with a spill off my bike last weekend.

Darn Bikes! I wrecked a while back and broke a few ribs. Took what seemed like forever for them to heal. I didn't see the doctor for various reasons. It took about a month before I could climb easy slab on TR. Another four months, I was able to get back onto overhang.

I climbed what I could for training purposes but I didn't do anything that would cause pain. If it hurts don't climb it, there are always alternatives.

For fear of further injury, I took it easy until it was fully healed.

Of course, I'm not a Dr. So do what the Dr. says. But that was my broken rib experience.

Caz Drach · · Sugarhouse, UT · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 310

i did this at the end of the season last year... do not climb... any twist or heavy breathing will exacerbate it and you will have twice the recovery.

Good luck...


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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