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Intercostal Muscle Strain/Floating Rib Syndrome

Has anyone dealt with floating rib syndrome? I’m currently taking steroids and muscle relaxers but they aren’t doing much. Xray shows nothing broken but I have a clicking and popping of the ribs followed by muscle spasms which are very painful.
I’m also using lidocaine patches and Tylenol.

I’m hoping to hear some success stories.

I cracked a couple of ribs and tore mine a few years ago when I got bucked off. It was excruciating for about ten days and then gradually got better. The hardest part was not being able to lie down to sleep.


I cannot imagine that pain and so sorry to hear this! Did you have a sudden trauma to explain this?

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@Highflyer1. 10 days I can live with I suppose. Today is day 7 but I don’t feel much relief. I go from no pain to a level 10 when I move the wrong way. Sleeping on the other side has been successful but I’m just so so annoyed. I hate being away from the barn and being able to do chores at home. Oh! And sneezing or coughing are totally out for me right now. It takes my breath away for a good 10 seconds. Hurts bad!

@PaddockWood. Thank you. It’s excruciating. I was training flying changes and trying to stop my guy from anticipating. He took over and did a HUGE change, unseated me, that spooked him and he bucked and bolted. Landed on my back and hip. Knocked the wind out of me but I got back on and didn’t think much of it. 2 days go by and I was sore but I could feel I was getting better. Until…i sneezed in bed. OMG. It knocked the wind out of me all over again. I haven’t been able to move much since. Xrays say nothing is broken but I can feel popping/cracking when I move a certain way. Everyone keeps telling me Ice, heat, muscle relaxers, Tylenol, lidocaine patches, and rest. I’m doing all of that but each morning it’s back to level 10 pain. I’m just hoping it goes away with this treatment and surgery isn’t going to be needed. Damn young horses. Lol

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Damn. And to think you were feeling better and then sneezed. Makes you wonder, could it be a pinched nerve? My husband all of a sudden was having horrific back pain and that had never happened in his life. We go to Urgent Care and they can’t find anything, shoot an xray, nothing.

He’s at home and twists his back and it was gone. All pain gone. Never came back.

Hope you feel better soon!


Oh wow. It def could be a nerve. Urgent care was terrible. Basically looked for breaks, didn’t see any, and thought I was faking to get pain meds. Highly annoying. I don’t even know who I’d go to to see if it is a nerve. My primary hasn’t even called back from yesterday.

Thankfully your husband found a quick and easy answer. Maybe I’ll be so lucky lol

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I broke ribs and tore some of the intercostal a few years ago. I would get terrible spasms if I rotated my trunk. I developed my own stretch for dealing with it.

I lay flat on the floor with feet and legs together and stretched out. I have both arms along my sides. They keeping my arms straight and moving one at a time, I reach back as far as I can until my arm is up alongside my head and flat on the floor. It’s simple but seems to work.

Another helpful stretch is to get a piece of pvc pipe or a wood dowel that is more than should width long. Again, while laying on the floor with arms held vertical rotate to each side until your arm on that side touches the floor.

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Find yourself a good chiropractor.


Can’t believe this thread is here today. I looked a couple of days ago and all the broken rib references were about horses’ ribs.

I’ve had a rib floating around my twelfth thoracic for over four decades. Up through my 30s, while I studied/taught dance full time, I could manage flare-ups pretty well with two yoga poses: child’s pose, and the plow, followed by rolling my spine back down to the floor one vertebra at a time. Lately, at 64, my movement practice is shifting hay for 50 other-people’s my horses four times per week, and daily cleaning, bedding, and riding my own. If my 12th thoracic gets wonky, child’s pose still helps, especially the rolling up and down to get in and out of it. Everything was mostly fine until this past Monday.

Having fun tuning up our half-halts with my 16 y.o. TB, really riding back to front and happy with my timing, I asked for our third canter, and the next thing I know I’m having a nanosecond debate with myself about whether to grab his neck (never a good plan), then strategizing how not to catch my right foot in my right stirrup just as my right sacroiliac and rib cage hit the dirt. Like all riders, I’ve had the wind knocked out of me many times before. Until Monday, I’ve never thought my lungs were on fire at the same time. After several minutes, I got my breath, and gingerly got back on, and rode for about more five minutes.

The ranch where I board and work was super busy that evening and no one was free to spell me from feeding, so I gutted it out. As you say, @Highflyer1, the nighttime pain that night and every night since has been breathtaking. I get fully stuck trying to change positions or move a darned pillow and wonder if I’ll ever move again. Tuesday morning, though there’s nothing one can do to fix cracked or broken ribs, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t caused any scarier damage, so my doctor ordered x-rays. They were finished by 10:15.

It took until the next day at noon to find out that I have five, count 'em, five broken ribs, numbers 5 to 9, plus it feels and sounds (:flushed:) as if my floating 12th thoracic rib is on its own painful program again. I’ve been super lucky and never broken a bone before. Zero to five in one move. I must be getting freaking old.

Fingers crossed, tincture of time will help you @KurPlexed. My doctor has been pretty clear that there is no surgical option for dislocated ribs and has warned me off riding for at least four weeks, probably longer, so that I do no more damage. My understanding is if the clunking I hear and feel plus the spasms come from the so-called false ribs, 11 or 12, they’re not well attached anyway, and I’ll have to wait for them to settle down.

I’m hoping for a slightly better night tonight. After hearing me say I cannot bear to buy a recliner, a dear friend dug her daughter’s unused bolster out of the bottom of a closet and brought it over.

Side note, my x-ray report says the reason for the radiographs is: FALL.
Nowhere does it say: ejected from several feet up by a chestnut TB with a white blaze. I mean, jeez, I didn’t trip over my shoelace and break five ribs. Documents matter. I’m a little annoyed.


Thanks for this. I’m looking forward to being able to try it.
Do you remember how long you had to heal before you could?

Agreed. Either that or a sports-centric physical therapy office.

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Oh man @sami-joe. I feel your pain. Literally lol. 5 broken ribs are no joke. I hope you heal quickly.

I haven’t come off in 20 years and the fall itself didn’t hurt much at all but the damn sneeze sent me over the top. I’m sitting in the ortho urgent care now bc I still feel clicking and popping in my ribs. And now a constant dull ache.

Bla. I’m annoyed with all of this

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Better safe than sorry. The clicking and popping doesn’t sound right.


Kinesio tape will help! I had a horse trip and fall and I did some damage like this. Also broke some ribs up a little higher. 8 weeks for the broken ribs but it was forever before I could mostly get over the muscle and floating ribs part (like, could not hold a plank for years without spasms). Kinesio taping helped a lot in the acute stage.


@KurPlexed and @sami-joe How are you doing and get any professional help?

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@IPEsq. Thx I’ll look into it.

@PaddockWood. I’m slowly getting better. Thx for asking. I feel like I’m 50% there. Still need to be really careful how I move which is annoying. I did go to ortho urgent care but there really isn’t any treatment besides steroids, relaxers, ice, heat and rest.

Thanks for asking. :slight_smile:

I feel pretty good and am enjoying yet another excuse to not do housework. Because my family doctor told me not to lift anything heavier than 10 or 15 pounds for a few weeks, I can still clean my horse’s pen and feed 50 horses four times a week if someone else loads the cart. Somehow, I cannot manage to scrub the bathtub, though.

When I asked her how soon I could start physical therapy, she said there’s nothing to be done until the ribs heal. I’m a little skeptical of that, so I asked one of the trainers where I work and board to ask her PT father about that. I also suggested that I might have some osteoporosis since I’ve come off many, many, many times (only four in the last 28 years, though) and never broken a bone. She offered to set up a scan and said a little dryly, “You could have osteoporosis, or you could have fallen off a horse.”

I’d be in way worse shape if a friend hadn’t found a bolster at the bottom of her 20-something daughter’s closet and loaned it to me ,so I can sleep slightly sitting up. Lying down and changing positions while down was worse than childbirth by a long shot.

How are you doing?

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Oh totally agree. Very painful. Glad you’re starting to heal. :heartpulse:

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Good to hear on both of you. You’re obviously very tough cookies.


I came off 12 years ago and broke my collarbone and (thought I) bruised ribs. A month later I did too much one day and had excruciating pain when I laid down. When they did another x-ray they could see a halo from the healing around a cracked rib.

So don’t discount a hairline fracture of 1 or more ribs that didn’t show up on an initial x-ray.