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  • Writer's pictureKevin Fitzgerald

The importance of our ribs

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Our ribs are a vital and often neglected part of our bodies.

Our ribs are an under reported and rarely discussed part of our body. Through a very painful injury however I learnt just now important they are to our health.

Six years ago I was swinging on a rope attached to a tree. I was swinging very fast with my hands holding onto the rope and my back and hips flexed so my feet were beside my hands. Suddenly the rope snapped and l crashed onto the ground initially impacting my sacrum before my back hit an exposed tree root of a Moreton Bay Fig Tree causing my tenth rib on my right side to be torn away from the cartilage.

Then the rest of my back, spine and head smashed into the ground.  Since I hit the ground so hard my initial thought was that I had broken my back and my legs would be paralysed.

I decided to check my ability to move my feet and was very relieved to find I could wiggle my toes.

The pain around my lower right rib cage, however, was excruciating. To lessen my pain, I restricted my breathing.  This was a key factor in the beginning of a journey of discovery.

Ribs are vitally important

The injury to my rib encouraged me to learn and understand more about rib injuries and subsequently the vital importance of our ribs.

I was surprised to learn that a common way to fracture a rib was in coughing.  Quite often when people are sick, they cough and they fracture their ribs.

Other ways my clients have fractured their ribs are through impact and compact injuries such as being hit by a car, being rammed against the steering wheel of a car, or having a large object, such as a water tank or tractor, fall on them.

We restrict our breathing with rib injuries

One of the consequences of rib injuries is that they are quite painful and in the healing of them we tend to hold and restrict our breathing to limit our pain thereby immobilising our rib cage. Restricting our breathing restricts our ability to find inner peace or harmony Our body does not like being immobilised or being still for long.

Our body likes to move, to lengthen, to shorten, and to have the freedom to move in all different directions. To restrict our breathing to avoid pain has the effect of creating an internal un-settlement as the rhythm of our breath is vitally important for us to experience inner peace or harmony. When we get scared to breathe, we reduce our ability to relax and we become hyper-vigilant in our world and alter our breathing. We engage our sympathetic nervous system (the system that gives us ‘fight or flight or freeze’ response) and it stays engaged. Simply put, our body is on high alert, feels stressed and does not relax and fully rejuvenate.

We can also restrict our breathing and movement of our ribs when we do not feel safe to feel our feelings. This will engage our enteric system which is like a brain in our gut that sends messages to our brain via the valgus nerve and we can experience a range of emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, and panic.

Our breathing is important to the health of our internal organs

As we breathe in and out our lungs take in air (oxygen) and as we breathe out we expel gases (carbon dioxide). Our lungs have a strong relationship with the heart moving gases in and out of our blood stream. As our diaphragm moves up and down, it massages our internal organs promoting health.

When we restrict our breathing and the movement of our diaphragm, we are limiting the optimum functioning of our heart and the other internal organs.

Rib function is also important to shoulder function

As a result of my rib injury, I started to exam more closely the ribs of people who came to see me.

I noticed a relationship of the ribs and the ability to move the shoulder.

I discovered how important rib function is to shoulder function and I noticed that a lot of people presenting with shoulder pain, arm pain and neck pain, were experiencing pain because of a restriction in their ribs.  By loosening their rib cage, all of a sudden their arms were able to function more efficiently and the pain in their shoulders, arms and neck went away.

If you are having problems with your neck, shoulders or arms, have you considered that part of the solution maybe in your ribs?

If you think your rib are restricted and causing you pain or limiting optimum function of your body and you’d like some assistance, please contact me on 0408 694 655 to discuss your health or click to BOOK ONLINE.

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