Chiropractor cracked my ribs. Is this a mistake what she did?

by Neil
(Houston, Texas)

I have piriformis syndrome. I saw a Chiropractor yesterday. As I was laying on my stomach she pushed down on my back but, not in the center. When she pushed down, I heard a crunching sound on my right rib cage which really hurt.

After a couple of minutes, the pain went away but, today, my ribs still hurt with bearable pain.

Did she mess up or, is this normal?

Thank you so much.

Hello Neil,
No, it's certainly not normal, but I won't pretend that it's very rare. I'm a careful adjuster and I confess to eight patients in forty years who have had this experience at my hands.

It's probably not a cracked rib as then the pain would by unbearable; every breath would be a nightmare. Nevertheless, clearly there was some damage to the integrity of the bone.

A cracked rib is to a chiropractor what a broken root is to a dentist, and an allergic reaction to penicillin is to a medical doctor. If people sued us every time it happened there would be no more doctors of any ilk on the planet.

It's important to talk frankly to your chiropractor about this; she must stay off the area until it heals and then perhaps only use an activator when adjusting the ribs. Treatment for the piriformis can continue but she will have to adjust her techniques; hopefully she eats humble pie; it's never nice to know you have hurt a patient, but it happens; once in five years in my practice, but every one hurt me as much and perhaps more than the patient.

One last thought; this is unusual in a male. Mostly it happens to elderly women. An investigation into the possibility of brittle bone disease would not be inappropriate; could there be an underlying parathyroid deficiency, for example. In any event, I'd give thought to best calcium for osteoporosis; from your food; in tablet form it raises the incidence of heart disease because of deposition in the coronary arteries. See our osteoporosis page in the navigation bar on your left. Enjoying kefir benefits every morning for breakfast would be a simple beginning, and improve the health of your colon at the same time; it's a probiotic.

It will probably be quite sore for about two weeks; pray you don't get a cold! A sneeze or cough would be a nightmare; blowing your nose timeously will often preempt it. There will be no sequela; you will recover completely.

Please let me know in two or three weeks how you are doing; thank you for your query.

Dr B

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Apr 15, 2023
Rib pain
by: Jimmy

I am 75 years old, and I had open heart surgery five years ago so I'm pretty picky on how much pressure I let a chiropractor put on my body. I have seen this guy three or four times for lower back pain treatments and on our first appointment I made sure I told him that I could not take any popping my back on account of I have had my ribs injured before from another DC.

I just wanted him to adjust my lower lumber area. I laid on the table and he started pressing on the lumbar area but then he just moved up and started to press in the middle of my back and then all of a sudden, he pushed down so hard that we both heard a pop. I had tears in my eyes, and he looked extremely startled. He helped me to a sitting position and began to rub the rib area and said it was not broken.

I am trying to get through this, and I know it's going to take time. I don't really blame the doctor I should have reminded him about the injury again perhaps, I just wish he would have remembered me as a patient and our conversation we had before. To all of those who hurt like I do, you will survive.

Hello Jimmy,
Every chiropractor, or certainly most, has cracked a rib or two. It happens; I will admit to 8 in 42 years.

It shouldn't happen, like a dentist should never break a root, but it does.

It hurts a lot for a week or two and as you say one does survive. It's a self-limiting condition and very unlikely to cause any lasting damage.

Your DC had a senior moment and forgot that you had forbidden him to work on the area.

I'm 75 too and now tell all patients with such problems, or a hip replacement, to remind me each and every time.

You'll get over it, give it time and, if you do go back to the same guy, spell it out what happened. The only way doctors learn is when patients are candid about such matters.

For the record, none of the eight sued me; but I don't live and practice in the US.

Luckily for DCs really serious reactions to treatment are rare; that's why our insurance premiums are so low. But it can and does happen.

Dr B.R. Lewis DC

Jun 04, 2022
Cracked Rib at The Joint
by: David S

I am a big guy, 46 y/o male 350lbs. A Chiropractor at the Joint in Pearland TX cracked my rib on the very first adjustment. I haven't had an x-ray yet, but I've had a cracked rib before and this feels like that.

This guy tried ot blame on the hinge on the table, that was under padding. He wad more concerned about me making sounds of pain in the Joint's open floor plan for treatment areas.

I looked this Chiropractor up and he has only had his license for less than 2 months before the day of my appointment.

What should be my next move? This posting is the day after the incident and I may miss some work due to this injury.

Hello David,
Apologies for the long delay in answering.

Unfortunately every chiropractor will crack a rib occasionally. I have eight to my credit in 42 years. It is a self-limiting condition, hurts a lot for a couple weeks and then you will have recovered most likely completely.

Of greater concern is that the DC was able to crack a rib on a guy of your size and age. You almost certainly suffer from Metabolic Syndrome and osteoporosis may be one of the consequences.

I would ask your doctor for a bone density scan.

I'm not going to lecture about your weight; you know the consequences of carrying so many extra pounds. If you really do want to live a long, healthy life, start now by cutting out all refined carbs permanently; cake flour, sugar, pasta and white rice are usually the problem.

Diets don't work, forget them. Just cut the refined carbs; otherwise there is lots of misery ahead.

Get that scan taken.

Keep in contact.

Dr B.

Nov 14, 2021
Sharp pain after adjustment
by: Anonymous

Hello, I hope you can help me. I'm a 41 year old female and saw a chiropractor twice. The second time, he had me cross my arms over my chest and bend my right knee over my left leg forthe adjustment. I felt tremendous pressure on the right side of my chest as he pushed down a second time and then pain. I figured it would go away but it immediately started to get worse- a deep sharp pain behind my right breast that caused breathlessness and I had to take off work. Now, 13 days later, the pain has subsided a little but I still have a sharp pain every time I sit up or take a deep breath, and I cannot work out. I'm terrified and the doctor is responding in a defensive manner, and clearly worried about liability. Do you know what this could be and is it serious? Im afraid it won't get better.

Jun 05, 2021
cracked rib?
by: Anonymous

Went to see chiropractor..It has been years since I have been to one. My doctor just got a chiropractor in his office for 2 days a week. I have had a pain in upper back across shoulders that just wouldn't go away so Dr.made first appt.with chiropractor. Went on this week.I am 79. When he cracked my upper back I felt a sharp pain in chest area on left side..he did it again and the pain came again..but after a min.or so it sort of went away. That night it sure came and couldn't hardly take a breathe..It is really painful..when I take a deep breathe it really hurts but it is worse under the left arm around the back area,under chest area. I can hardly move,bend over,turn from side to side..can't do any lifting...I can't do much of anything..Next appt. is on June is June 5. I have sent a message to my dr. office to see if I can get in there anything that I can do in between and I have osteo.problems..Thankyou

Dec 04, 2019
Back cracked after leaning over
by: Dominic

I went to a chiropractor today. He adjusted the centre of my back, then I felt my ribs cracked and I could not breathe for about 15 seconds.

He asked me to get up and after a few seconds, I felt fine. No pain, no soreness and my back pain was gone.

An hour later I went to lean over, my back cracked and I felt sharp pain in my ribs. I feel fine now but I am getting scared. Do you have any advice?

Hello Dominic,
Apologies for the delay in answering your question.

Some immediate discomfort and even pain after a chiropractic adjustment is not uncommon. The fact you felt so much better and had no pain after a few seconds certainly confirm that he had not cracked a rib.

Almost every chiropractor has cracked a few ribs, and I will admit to my share; one every four years on average. It is self-limiting and the patient recovers completely. This was not your problem.

After an adjustment the spine is vulnerable for a period; the muscles and ligaments have been loosened and a setback is not uncommon. For some people with a weak back this really can apply for a few days. Be careful after the treatment.

You were lucky and despite the pain an hour later, you recovered with no further treatment; that is a tribute to your general condition.

You do not have to be unduly anxious after a chiropractic adjustment, but an degree of common sense is needed; that is not the time to lift the grand piano.

Talk to your chiropractor about your doubts; an honest relationship is important.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B.R. Lewis DC

Dec 04, 2019
Same thing
by: DJ

I went to a chiropractor today. He cracked the center of my back, then I felt my ribs cracked and I could not breath for about 15 seconds. He asked me to get up and after a few seconds, I felt fine. No pain, no sourness and my back pain was gone. An hour later I went to lean over, my back cracked and I felt sharp pain in my ribs. I feel fine now but I'm getting scared. Any advice?

Jun 01, 2019
chiropractor badly bruised my ribs on first visit by cracking my back... no heated packs first!
by: Mama

I’m in so much pain.... left his office a message to see if he could give me a RX to get chest X-rays but he was only in his far away office. So I had to drive myself to ER. They said I had Contusions in my ribs on right side under chest. So much pain... Doc text me twice saying he was sorry I got hurt but never called to talk to me! That was upsetting! Here it is over a week later & I'm in more pain than when it happened... wondering if I should get an MRI to get a better look; plus now I have some kind of respiratory infection complete with fever; think I got it from shallow breathing avoiding more pain. Ugh. I give up... go to a doc to get help with headaches & neck pain... leave with bruised ribs & no phone call at all! 😠

You've every right to be grumpy, Mama. Firstly that you were hurt and secondly that he didn't even bother to phone. I'm sure you won't, but don't go back.

The good news is that a contused rib, even a cracked rib will heal; it's usually painful for about two weeks. An MRI really won't contribute much.

Nasty that you have a fever, and coughing will certainly be very painful and even slow healing. See your doctor for some medication, even though it's probably viral and antibiotics won't help much. At least get some advice.

I'm afraid there isn't a chiropractor about who hasn't cracked a rib or two, including yours truly! It is self limiting. What's upsetting is his uncaring attitude. Inexcusable.

Be strong, you'll get over this, but it certainly is miserable for a couple weeks. An ice pack over the site of the injury will help.

Let us know how you get on.

Dr B

Jun 19, 2018
reply in 3 weeks
by: Neil

Bone density and heart attack!?

Now you are scaring me!

I know you are trying to help and educate me.

I will come back in 3 weeks to let you know how I am doing.

GOD bless you for your reply and help.

Thank you so much.

My pleasure, Neil, that's what this site is about.

Dr B

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