Ever felt a sudden burst of upper back pain? Does it hurt to sneeze or cough? You may have suffered a rib sprain. Here is a quick rundown of what you should know and more importantly, how we can help!

What is a rib sprain?

Your ribs are connected to the spine by multiple joints. These are the costotransverse and costovertebral joints (yeah, don’t worry too much about the names!). A sprain occurs when these joints become strained, stressed and inflamed.

Rib sprains are a common injury. They are often caused by:

  • Spinal restriction
  • Overuse or misuse e.g. heavy lifting, excessive bending, over twisting.
  • Poor posture
  • Sudden trauma (like falling on your rib cage)
  • Excessive coughing


A rib sprain can occur suddenly and cause mild to severe pain in the upper back. It may feel like a sharp or stabbing pain which is intensified when inhaling, sneezing, coughing or laughing. It is usually targeted on one side of the spine and rib cage. Muscle spasms, tenderness and restricted mobility are also common side effects.

How can we help?

Firstly, try to REST! Be sure to avoid sudden movements, especially lifting, bending or twisting. We also recommend using ice or a cold pack to reduce inflammation when the injury first occurs.

After a thorough assessment and review of your history, we will first work on relieving pain and mobilising the joint in question. This may involve an adjustment or soft tissue massage to release the joint and muscles surrounding the area.

We may progress to gentle exercises to increase mobility and prevent any joint stiffness. Strengthening, stretching and core stability exercises are often prescribed to prevent a recurrence. Treatment is tailored to each client individually to ensure rehab is successful!

If you are suffering from rib pain, get in touch! Call us on +61 3 5381 1892 or email info@back4life.com.au to book an appointment!