Treating Broken Ribs Safely – Rib Belts & Survival Medicine

rib fractures

Broken ribs are among the most painful injuries preppers face during disasters. But treating them incorrectly can lead to pneumonia and even death. In this post we’ll show you how to use rib belts safely, and how to watch for the other life-threatening complications of rib fractures.

Broken Ribs

Broken Ribs are No Joke! 

The crushing sensation of broken ribs can be tearfully painful and immobilizing.  They’re frequently caused by falls, and remind you of their presence with every cautious breath. Sometimes the sharp broken fragments of ribs can cut the lung open and cause air to collect between the chest wall and the lung tissue.  This is called pneumothorax. Fortunately, the majority of rib injuries don’t result in this severe complication.  Instead, the main danger is a result of the pain they cause. It discourages the person from breathing deeply.  And with the lung not filling completely with air from time to time, the person is in danger of getting pneumonia.


Two Tips for Treating the Pain of Broken Ribs

#1 Rib Belts

Putting pre-manufactured rib belts or tight elastic bandages around the person’s chest can help contain the pain, but they can also be dangerous.  It can further limit lung expansion, and increase the risk of developing pneumonia (treating pneumonia).

#2 Pulse Oximeter

Using a pulse oximeter can help you monitor oxygen levels. If they are falling, you have to suspect either pneumonia or pneumothorax is complicating the injury. Pulse oximeters have multiple uses and are well worth the modest investment ($20). They take up little room in your med kit and help you treat a variety of lung conditions and breathing problems.

Rib BeltsIn this short video you’ll see the proper technique for sizing and applying rib belts for painful broken ribs. Note they are different from men to women.

Take Home Message: 

With broken ribs the natural tendency is to breathe shallowly to avoid the sharp stabbing pain inherent with this type of fracture.  This is a problem, because we normally inhale germs throughout the day, and need to clear them periodically from our lungs.  We do this by breathing deeply and coughing from time to time.  But this reflex is suppressed when we’re in pain, and when we’re wearing rib belts or wide elastic bandages.  If you can remember to breathe deeply a couple of times an hour while the belt is on, then an infection is less likely to occur. Here is a pulse oximeter that I recommend to check for decreasing oxygen levels, which might signal a problem is developing. 

Survival Medicine Book

For more on rib belts for broken ribs and pulse oximeters for monitoring pneumonia please click on the book image above.

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