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  1. #1
    I like turtles mascher's Avatar
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    Broken/Bruised Ribs - when to get back on the bike?

    I'm most a commuter and ride all winter in Montreal and (hopefully) train about an hour a day during the week on a stationary trainer.

    I either broke or bruised my lower ribs 3 weeks ago today - I didn't have an x-ray as the doc poked and prodded a bit, and as I'm not either expectorating blood or experiencing any abnormal physical effects, there was no point in confirming since there's no real treatment besides avoiding stress and strain. It's bad enough that it's greatly painful (though less and less daily) when I sneeze, cough or laugh, and I still can't lay flat on my back or roll over in bed, but I can now sleep on the "bad" side with a little strategic pillow and leg positioning. I feel tightness when I stretch or put stress on the area (e.g. bending over, lifting things like grocery bags from the floor), but generally am no longer experiencing pain, just a little discomfort.

    I started using my trainer late last week, being careful not to stress my chest, or work hard enough that I couldn't breathe deeply and regularly, and I felt even better after two days on.

    I rode in to work today for the first time since my injury, and I'm wondering if I'm pushing it - I certainly don't want to exacerbate the injury or prolong healing time, but taking the metro to work and getting essentially no exercise at all is no good either. It's not painful, but I have to admit it does feel a little tighter, probably because using the trainer I would alternate 5 minutes on the bars and 5 minutes no hands, and my commute is about 25 minutes going slow and easy.

    Am I pushing it? The doc said to not do any physical activities until "it felt better". "When will that be?" When it doesn't hurt?" "What do you mean by doesn't hurt?" "You'll be able to do physical activities" "How long?" "oh, you know 3-12 weeks, or until it doesn't hurt anymore."

  2. #2
    bificurated RiotBoi's Avatar
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    I got my ribs pretty good back when i was working as a messenger and only tok 2 days off, but it sounds like yours are worse off then mine were. With ribs it seems that as long as you are comfortable with the amount of suffer you're giving yourself then all is well, just don't fall on them
    Split Tongue Drunk Hammer Weilding Death Merchant

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jarery's Avatar
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    I broke 2 ribs last spring when a minivan turned left in front of me and i endoed over the bars, slamming my ribs into them first.

    Couldnt cough, laugh, sneeze, lay down, sit down, stand up, roll over, etc. Major pain. But after about a week, although i still couldnt do any of the above, I could ride as long as i didnt get in the drops. Everyone thought I was crazy since i could barely move without pain. But on the bike, your upper body is pretty much stationary so i was fine.

    Oh and it took about 2 months for the pain to be gone.
    Jarery

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  4. #4
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    You'll be fine. Just take it easy. Ride at a recovery pace. I broke my ribs years ago and got back on a horse within a month. Yeah, I know a horse isn't a bike, but you have very little strenuous upper body involvement in either activity.

    I fell off my horse a few months ago and hurt my shoulder. It still isnt right, but I was able to ride after just a few days and it still hurt a lot.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    June 7, 1997
    7:30 am - I bang my toe on my left foot into my drafting board. It hurts like no toe has ever hurt before, but I stuff my foot into a shoe with a fairly solid sole and hobble to work.

    7:30 pm - I decide to go for a bicycle ride despite the fact that I now realize my toe is broken because of the way the it looks and the bleeding/bruising pattern ... after all, cycling shoes have solid soles and we don't pedal with our toes.

    8:30 pm - The guy I'm riding behind comes to a sudden stop ... I run right into his back wheel and start going over to the left. Because of my toe, my brain tells me not to drop that foot on the ground because it will hurt too much. For some reason I also keep a tight grip on the handlebars. Instead, I go over and land directly on my ribs ... cracking them.

    9:30 pm - The doctor looks me over, and then asks me when my last tetanus shot was ... I hesitate. Out comes the needle, and it sinks into my left arm.

    I am incapacitated on my entire left side.

    June 8th - I couldn't do anything ... I tried to ride, but ended up throwing up from the pain.

    June 9th - I was back on the bicycle again!!


    I actually found that cycling put my ribs into the most comfortable position of all - sort of hanging out there in mid air. While I was on my bicycle was the only time where I was completely free of rib pain. It took a little while though before I was completely free from tetanus and broken toe pain!!

  6. #6
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    June 7, 1997
    7:30 am - I bang my toe on my left foot into my drafting board. It hurts like no toe has ever hurt before, but I stuff my foot into a shoe with a fairly solid sole and hobble to work.

    7:30 pm - I decide to go for a bicycle ride despite the fact that I now realize my toe is broken because of the way the it looks and the bleeding/bruising pattern ... after all, cycling shoes have solid soles and we don't pedal with our toes.

    8:30 pm - The guy I'm riding behind comes to a sudden stop ... I run right into his back wheel and start going over to the left. Because of my toe, my brain tells me not to drop that foot on the ground because it will hurt too much. For some reason I also keep a tight grip on the handlebars. Instead, I go over and land directly on my ribs ... cracking them.

    9:30 pm - The doctor looks me over, and then asks me when my last tetanus shot was ... I hesitate. Out comes the needle, and it sinks into my left arm.

    I am incapacitated on my entire left side.

    June 8th - I couldn't do anything ... I tried to ride, but ended up throwing up from the pain.

    June 9th - I was back on the bicycle again!!


    I actually found that cycling put my ribs into the most comfortable position of all - sort of hanging out there in mid air. While I was on my bicycle was the only time where I was completely free of rib pain. It took a little while though before I was completely free from tetanus and broken toe pain!!
    Nice. Sort of a pain trifecta.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
    okay maybe not. mmerner's Avatar
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    Broke a rib or two mountain biking. Was back road biking after a couple days. Takes months to heal, I'm not going to wait that long.
    question everything.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowandsteady
    Nice. Sort of a pain trifecta.
    Yeah! Well, they do say things happen in threes!!


    I should have probably added that my toe took about 6 weeks to heal, and it was about 8 weeks for the ribs to heal ... 8 weeks before I could lie on my left side in bed.

  9. #9
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Yeah! Well, they do say things happen in threes!!
    It all depends on when you start counting.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    ieatrats--For some reason I break my ribs a lot. I think 4 times now. Ouch. But usually they aren't bad fractures, just painful. If you were going to puncture a lung you probably would have done it by now. I would just resume normal activity as soon as possible. They usually hurt for 6 to 8 weeks.

    Machka--it sounds like you landed as good as could be expected. I think it's better not to let go of the handlebars. Sometimes the bike breaks your fall a little, and you shouldn't put your arms out or you'll probably break a wrist or collarbone. I broke my wrist once and was off the bike and off work for 5 months. Funny thing--it didn't hurt. Glad you're (mostly) OK by now.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  11. #11
    ... . Tmax1's Avatar
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    As others have testified, I too broke some ribs this summer after having been slammed by a truck.

    And as others have testified riding was easier than it might sound.Chest seemed open and breathing was actually easier. No drops though for several weeks.

    Double And as others have testified, ride up to and beyond your pain threshold.

    ~jg

  12. #12
    bificurated RiotBoi's Avatar
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    Wow, all you guys either got hit or hit something, I was just hauling ass and took a speed hump wrong and lost my bars. I kinda want more injury details from you others

    My list for that wreck was:
    Shredded hands
    Concussion/ bblack eye
    general roadrash
    2 cracked ribs
    and a split open scrotum. Yum.
    Split Tongue Drunk Hammer Weilding Death Merchant

  13. #13
    I like turtles mascher's Avatar
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    Riotboi, I can't even quote your last line and stick in the horrified smiley.

    If it helps, I didn't get hit, I was going up a curb with a loaded bag when it had just started raining, and as my rear wheel was in the air and the front had just come down, the front slid sideways, then flipped left, flipping me over the right side of the bike directly on the side of my chest. I was most impressed that my feet came out of the clipless pedals - I've been expecting a simple fall to turn into a horrible crash since I started using them 3 or 4 years ago, and I guess it doesn't happen.

    A week of easy commuting on the more upright mountain bike plus the usual bike errands (laundry, groceries, etc) and it's way better than it was at the beginning of the week. I'm pretty convinced it's all on the trainer that a little chest stretching and serious breathing has done a world of good - I can breathe almost as deeply as I could a month ago, and without pain, just "tightness". I've specifically avoided my road bike with low bullhorns though.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ieatrats
    I'm most a commuter and ride all winter in Montreal and (hopefully) train about an hour a day during the week on a stationary trainer.

    I either broke or bruised my lower ribs 3 weeks ago today - I didn't have an x-ray as the doc poked and prodded a bit, and as I'm not either expectorating blood or experiencing any abnormal physical effects, there was no point in confirming since there's no real treatment besides avoiding stress and strain. It's bad enough that it's greatly painful (though less and less daily) when I sneeze, cough or laugh, and I still can't lay flat on my back or roll over in bed, but I can now sleep on the "bad" side with a little strategic pillow and leg positioning. I feel tightness when I stretch or put stress on the area (e.g. bending over, lifting things like grocery bags from the floor), but generally am no longer experiencing pain, just a little discomfort.

    I started using my trainer late last week, being careful not to stress my chest, or work hard enough that I couldn't breathe deeply and regularly, and I felt even better after two days on.

    I rode in to work today for the first time since my injury, and I'm wondering if I'm pushing it - I certainly don't want to exacerbate the injury or prolong healing time, but taking the metro to work and getting essentially no exercise at all is no good either. It's not painful, but I have to admit it does feel a little tighter, probably because using the trainer I would alternate 5 minutes on the bars and 5 minutes no hands, and my commute is about 25 minutes going slow and easy.

    Am I pushing it? The doc said to not do any physical activities until "it felt better". "When will that be?" When it doesn't hurt?" "What do you mean by doesn't hurt?" "You'll be able to do physical activities" "How long?" "oh, you know 3-12 weeks, or until it doesn't hurt anymore."
    I've bruised/cracked the same rib three times, though my preferred method is while skiing.

    My experience is that it's not bad the first week or so, but the second and third weeks are when it starts hurting, and it will hurt a fair bit until 5 or 6 weeks.

    Your goal should be not to overstress the area. A little discomfort is okay, which is good, because - as you've found - you can't get away from it, especially while sleeping. Cycling easily should be fine as long as it doesn't *hurt* (a little discomfort is okay...)

    I've found that cycling doesn't bother me, though there is a chance of re-injury if you go down. Getting the bike down from the hanger, twisting when I get on the bike, stretching - those are the things that are the most painful to me.
    Eric

    2005 Trek 5.2 Madone, Red with Yellow Flames (Beauty)
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    Read my cycling blog at http://riderx.info/blogs/riderx
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  15. #15
    Virginia Duck22's Avatar
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    Bruised a few last Saturday and haven't gotten back on yet, but might try it this Sat and see how it feels. Seems okay from the trainer, but there's no road vibration there, obviously.

    The way hardest thing, as several have mentioned, is getting into/out of and rolling over in bed. I saw a tip in another forum - tie a length of climbing-type rope (real or imitation) to the foot of your bed, and hand-over-hand it to sit up and lie back. And HEY, it does help. Still no easy way to roll over, though...
    .
    Let's Roll!

  16. #16
    Out the door roadie gal's Avatar
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    If you've actually broken a few ribs then it takes about 2 weeks for the ends of the bone to start to stick together. Any time after that is OK to start EASY exercise. I would stick to the trainer until you're sure that you'd be able to handle the bike if something (a front flat, a pothole, a car, etc.) requiring quick movements came up. It takes 6-8 weeks for a bone to completely heal.

  17. #17
    Senior Member MondoDave's Avatar
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    For what it is worth - when I smacked my ribs the doc said to make sure i took several deep breaths a few times each hour (something about using full lung capacity and not letting the lungs get lazy??)
    "Work In Progress"

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarery View Post
    I could ride as long as i didnt get in the drops..
    I got hit by a car at the end of March and broke 2 ribs on my left side.

    I started riding again after around 3 weeks, but I still can't ride in the drops yet

    The other thing that will suck is if you start to breath heavily. Maybe that's just because of where I broke mine, but really expanding my chest was as painful as sneezing. That started getting alot better this week, though.

    I also couldn't get out of the saddle very well at first. That's alot better now in week 5

    But easy spinning helped me heal faster though, so if you feel up to it, go for it.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadie gal View Post
    I would stick to the trainer until you're sure that you'd be able to handle the bike if something (a front flat, a pothole, a car, etc.) requiring quick movements came up.
    very good advice. Bike handling was my big challenge when I first started back.

    some things I didn't think would be a problem that actually were:

    * - taking a hand off the bars to wave to one of my neighbors (ouch!)

    * - reaching for my water bottle

    * - braking at the bottom of a hill

  20. #20
    Sprockette wabbit's Avatar
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    i thought i had heard everything but a split scrotum! yikes...my imaginary nuts are shrivelling up into my body!

    never broke ribs...but like machka had to have a tetanus shot last week. My front wheel slid on a patch of spring gravel, and BLAT. Three stitches in my right elbow, tetanus shot in left arm, infection of wound, one week antibiotics and a huge hematoma on my right hip. There is still a lump there that looks like a saddlebag. SEXY. And it's kind of numb. The doctor said it'll go away soon. My elbow hurt when i made a fist, so squeezing the brakes would have hurt like hell anyways...sigh. Great start to season!
    You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That's great...if you want to attract vermin.

  21. #21
    Laid back bent rider unixpro's Avatar
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    I either broke or badly bruised my ribs a few weeks ago when I was trying to get my bike up onto a sidewalk. I hit the lip of the drive at the wrong angle and went down on my right side. I knew I'd done something right away, but I went on ahead and rode home. I kept on riding, even though it hurt to take deep breaths. I didn't do my upper body workouts, though. I saw the doctor about a week later for my annual physical. He took an X-Ray, said he didn't see anything obvious and told me to be more careful.

    It's been 3 or so weeks now. I started lifting again at the end of last week. I've got a little pain, but nothing like it was.

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