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ANSWERED on Sun 22 Mar 2009 - 11:04 pm UTC by byrd

Question: What sort of injury can a bear hug cause?

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 22 Mar 2009 21:38 UTCSun 22 Mar 2009 - 9:38 pm UTC 

I was giving my fiance one of my usual bear hugs and suddenly I felt something happen on the lower right part of her torso. It happened quickly, so I can't be sure what it felt like. She said there is some pain, but it's not really bad. I wanted to go to the hospital, but she refuses, so instead I guess I need advice on what it could be and what I should watch out for.

Her pain is located on her right side of her torso about 3 inches higher than the level of the belly button.

At first I thought it might be a broken rib, but descriptions online say that broken ribs are extremely painful. She says she's not in extreme pain. She says it's only a little bit of pain when you touch it or when she exhales after a deep breath. I found references to something called a bruised rib, but I'm still not sure what that is.

Could it be a bruised rib? What is that? Is it something that I should worry about? What else could it be?

If this is not a good place to ask this sort of question, please recommend a site where I can get quick answers from real doctors.




 22 Mar 2009 23:04 UTCSun 22 Mar 2009 - 11:04 pm UTC 

Hi Happyengineer,

Sorry to hear about the hug that hurt. What you describe certainly sounds like a rib injury, which is a very common injury and not usually dangerous. Yes, broken ribs are very painful, but there are lesser injuries that might cause the symptoms your fiance is describing, ranging from a dislocation, to a tendon/ligament injury, to bruising, to a hairline fracture, to what is known as a "costochondral separation," which is when a rib tears away from the cartilage attaching it to the breastbone, or any number of other possibilities.

Many doctors still advise an x-ray if there's a chance of a fractured rib, though they can often feel whether or not a rib is broken just by palpating it, without need of an x-ray. Others will suggest a wait-and-see tack at first, using pain and other symptoms as a guide. If symptoms worsen, then go see a doctor; if they don't, then wait it out. Some doctors still advocate taping up the ribs, but quite a few others now advise against it due to the risk of pneumonia.

For rib injuries, even if you do get a formal diagnosis, it is still generally suggested to initially follow the RICE protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression (or support), and Elevation. So your girlfriend should keep quiet and avoid strenuous activity, apply ice to the site of the pain, 10 minutes on 10 off, use a wrap or support of some kind (though not tight taping), even a tight sweater or athletic shirt, and stay generally upright rather than lie down flat. After the first 24 hours, it is then generally suggested to use heat instead of ice. It is also usually suggested to use NSAIDs such as aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve pain and any inflammation.

This information is largely taken from personal experience, as I have been Red Cross First Aid certified a number of times in my past, as well as raised two boys, taken care of two (now teenaged) grandchildren, and nursed a spouse through a broken rib. In the case of my spouse, no x-rays were taken, and it was advised not to use a rib belt or taping. It took about six weeks to fully heal to the point that all vestiges of soreness were gone. There were no lasting ill effects.

Here are a few links to online sources with some good information and advice about rib injuries, as well as a few personal experiences that are similar.

"What is a Rib Injury?"  (University Sports Medicine)

Broken or Bruised Ribs

"Rib Injury, the Annoying Pain"

"Pain from getting bear hug," question/answer in Pain Management Community on MedHelp

Question/Answer: " A 6' 2' 345 person gave me a bear hug to the point of lots of pain and felt something move in my ribs. I feel pain when I touch that area...."


If you do want to check with a health professional, here are a couple of links where you can do so online via chat or by email.

"No more long waits on the phone or at the doctor's office. We'll connect you with a physician or therapist immediately. Through email or video, eConsult Live provides you with quick, easy and affordable access to medical advice...."

JustAnswer - Medical
Online doctors instantly answer your medical questions.

If the symptoms do worsen, your fiance should probably go ahead and see a health professional without delay and of course nothing stated here should be construed as medical advice or taken as a substitute for advice from a doctor or health professional, but is provided for your information only.

However, I do hope the information is helpful. Please let me know if you need anything else. My best wishes to your fiance for a speedy recovery.






 23 Mar 2009 00:10 UTCMon 23 Mar 2009 - 12:10 am UTC 

Thanks! She read this, but the only thing I could convince her to do is wear a tighter shirt. She wouldn't even put ice on it. But since she's working on the computer the whole time at least she's staying upright.




 23 Mar 2009 01:08 UTCMon 23 Mar 2009 - 1:08 am UTC 

You're welcome. I'm glad you were pleased. As to your fiance, sounds like she's doing 3 out of 4 of the RICE suggestions, resting (I'm assuming she's not physically lifting that computer!), staying upright and using some extra support with that tighter shirt, so that's a good start. Ultimately she's the best judge of her own discomfort, so I'm sure if things get worse she'll be looking for more ideas! As to those usual bear hugs, well, it might be a good idea to try to restrain the enthusiasm just a bit in future. All my best to you both, ~Byrd


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