The other day I was back squatting. It was six in the morning and while I had a slight discomfort in the back of my ribs as I squatted, it continued to get more and more prevalent. An injury I’ve experienced before is a subluxated rib from back squats, but surely I thought, this wasn’t the case so I kept lifting. Well, in short, I was wrong. The surrounding muscles went into spasm, and yep, the joint was jammed. Let’s talk about why a subluxated rib from back squats happens and what you can do to avoid it.
Understanding The Rib Anatomy
You know where your ribs are in your body but do you know the anatomy? Check it out - you have 12 total ribs. Ten of those ribs are attached on the breast bone/sternum in the front, and attached on the middle back/thoracic spine. The other two? Those are called ‘floating ribs’ as they only attach to the spine and not to the sternum in the front. [R] Thanks to stabilizer muscles and ligaments that surround floating ribs, they stay in place. That being said, there’s also a nerve that goes between each rib.
Now think about the pressure that back squats put on the entire body. They’re great for strengthening the back, core, and legs, however with weak stabilizer muscles and/or poor form, the ribs can absorb the pressure, transferring that pressure into the muscles, ligaments, and nerves around the rib structure.
What Is A Subluxated Rib?
In short, a subluxation is a more scientific way of saying ‘it popped’. Whether it’s a subluxated rib, knee, shoulder, or otherwise, this slight dislocation or misalignment of a bone can cause pain and a serious spasm of the muscles around the area. Ever hear someone say “I think I popped a rib out”? This is what they’re talking about.
A subluxated rib is something that happens to individuals and crossfitters more often than talked about. It can happen to one or more ribs in the human body. When you breathe and have subluxed a rib or two, you may even experience something called costochondritis, which is a type of chest pain from the area and the pressure it puts on the lungs when they try to expand. [R]
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Causes of Subluxated Ribs
While most subluxations occur during exercise, CrossFit, or while back squatting, you can experience this injury from something as simple as a heavy cough, sneeze, or sleeping in the wrong position. [R] It can also happen when rough housing, playing other sports, or getting in a car accident. Basically, any motion or impact to the body that causes the arm to go behind the body in a quick, jerking motion, can cause a subluxated rib injury.
So what’s the deal with back squats and getting a subluxated rib? Solid question. While injuries during back squats usually happen to the lower back from the torso coming forward, it is common to pop out a rib or two if you’re not bracing correctly, not breathing correctly, or by having a misalignment with the bar and the spine. [R] How to avoid it in the future? Warm up, have good form, use correct breathing techniques, and if you feel tightness, take it easy on the weight and maybe save the PR for another day where your back and ribs feel stronger and more stable.
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If your rib pain doesn’t go away after some stretching and rest over the course of a few days we recommend scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor. Given their knowledge of the human skeletal anatomy, they can efficiently and effectively bring the subluxated rib back into its correct positioning in the rib cage. This is done by using a specific-contact, short-lever arm, high-velocity, low-aptitude maneuver (i.e., Gonstead Technique). [R] The sooner you can do this, the sooner the muscles, ligaments, and nerves around the area can calm down, reduce inflammation, and get back to moving that rib bone smoothly.
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How To Prevent Subluxated Ribs
In order to avoid subluxated ribs in the future, it is recommended that you strengthen your back muscles, use good posture both during exercise and during your regular activities (like sitting at work), and not sitting or standing with the head positioned forward, as this increases the risk of rib subluxations.
Joint Supplement To Avoid Subluxation
If you experience chronic inflammation in your joints, supplementation may be something you want to consider in order to reduce your risk of experienced a subluxed joint or bone. Supplements that would assist with this would be Turmeric, Krill Oil, and Collagen, which all have unique properties for repairing and keeping joints, tendons, and ligaments in tip top shape, especially for those who regularly participate in purposeful activity.
- Turmeric: reduce inflammation and joint pain
- Krill Oil: acts as a lubricant for joints to move smoothly
- Collagen: amino acid based protein that helps repair and rebuild joints, tendons, and ligaments
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Subluxated Rib From Back Squats - In Conclusion
While common, subluxing ribs or other joints/bones in the human body can be prevented by not neglecting the importance of accessory work. When you strengthen the stabilizers and muscles around bigger joint and muscle areas, you can effectively minimize your risk for injury and pain. If you do experience a popped rib, we recommend seeking care from a trusted chiropractor so that you can get on the road to recovery and not let that lingering pain and misaligned rib keep you from the activities you enjoy longer than you need to.
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