Ask Beth: What Should I Do About Pain in My Upper Ribs?

Ask Beth: What Should I Do About Pain in My Upper Ribs?

QUESTION: What should I do about pain in my upper ribs?

Hi Beth:

Today I came out of the water from surfing and had pain on my left side, upper ribs. It hurts to laugh, breathe deep, etc. I am pretty sure it’s not a cracked rib or anything, as I haven’t had extreme pain, but even if it’s bruised I’m reading that I won’t be able to surf for 4–6 weeks! I’m really bummed about this and wondering what I can do to make it heal quickly, as well as what kind of exercise could I do to stay fit while I let it heal. Could I swim or exercise in the ocean?



Hey Kristin,

Well, if your self-diagnosis is correct, then rest is the best thing to heal the injury. You may also have some tissue damage to the area that is really sensitive. The main thing I would steer clear of is any exercise that causes pain to the area. You want to let every action try and be pain free so it can heal. Not sure if swimming in the ocean (or swimming at all) is going to let that area relax. Swimming forces you to use your lats as well as many other muscles in the area surrounding your ribs. Give it a whirl, but if it hurts, I would stick to lower extremity activities, most likely in the gym. The pool might be a better bet since the water surface is calm…????

My main goal would be to get back in the H20 for surfing, but I would also want to maintain some sort of fitness. SO, if you feel comfortable with your diagnosis (never hurts to go to a doctor), I would just try different activities and see how the body reacts to them. You may find as your breathing increases,  the pain increases. Also, abdominal work and upper body activities may be a no-no.

I hope you are comfortable in a gym because it may be your only resource for fitness. Let me know what you figure out and we can go from there.

I am sure there are some modalities in a physical therapist’s office that would increase the rate of recovery. I would definitely look into that.

Hang in there. You will be surfing before you know it.


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