Can Chiropractors Help With Broken Ribs?

Today’s blog post stems from a case that I had this week. If I would’ve adjusted this patient like I do others, I would’ve punctured his lung and caused a pneumothorax.

 No, chiropractors cannot fix a broken rib.

All too often chiropractors try to fix every condition that enters our office. Sometimes they try to adjust things they should not adjust or apply treatment modalities that are not necessary or in some cases even rub “snake oils” on the area with hopes that it would help.

 The best thing that a chiropractor can do for a broken rib is to NOT touch it. If the patient’s history provides evidence that a fracture could be probable, then why do chiropractors continue to get overly creative with the treatment? The treatment of broken ribs has relatively gone unchanged since the beginning of modern medicine. These ribs surround the organs of sustain life and typically do not want to be tampered with- especially when there’s evidence of pathology or fracture.

 This past week I had a young man enter my office after sustaining an injury in jujitsu. The injury happened about three weeks ago, and it was tender around the midaxillary line as most rib fractures are. There is a huge difference between “rib joint pain” (which chiropractic is helpful for) and “fracture pain”. There are a couple of orthopedic tests that you can do for a patient to determine how volatile the injury is. In this case, all of his tests were positive so we proceeded to shoot an x-ray. It is important to note that 50% of fractures will not be visible on a standard radiograph, as there is an overshadow from the lungs and other vessels in the area. So you really have to trust your gut with this one. Fortunately, there was a very evident small hairline fracture on the anterior left eighth rib of this patient. He was very surprised, because he felt like it was not a substantial hindrance in his life, but made sleeping uncomfortable. Chiropractors need to rely on their medical knowledge and their expensive education so that they cannot harm the patient. This is an oath we all swore after graduating from medical/chiropractic school. 

I sent the patient on his way with instructions to avoid contact activity and be careful not to fall on his left side. He will return in four weeks undoubtedly with a fully healed rib and be able to resume activity.

 I had the honor of being an expert witness on a case where a chiropractor adjusted a patient who had broken ribs. The saddest part about the case was the chiropractor even took x-rays, and upon my review of the x-rays, it was very clear that the patient had multiple broken ribs prior to being adjusted. The chiropractor ignored his education and the standard of care while proceeding forward with a high-velocity, thoracic maneuver. This ultimately put the patient in the hospital for 10 days fighting for his life because one lung collapsed and there was bleeding into his pleural cavity.

 It’s instances like this that give chiropractors a bad name. We are already fighting for the survival of our practice and profession in general. Blatant malpractice incidents like this, are just another thing that the medical community can hang their hat on.

 If you or a loved one has suffered a rib injury, and there is a suspect of a possible fracture please feel free to visit a chiropractor for a proper diagnosis. But please understand that a good chiropractor should not touch the area and only provide instruction on how to heal with time.

Do not let a chiropractor adjust a broken rib, no matter how confident they are. Chiropractors cannot fix broken ribs.

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