Pregnancy Related Pain- Ribs

One of my most recent Bumps came to me in desperation as both her GP and an NHS Physiotherapist had told her that her rib pain, diagnosed as “Rib Flare”, was untreatable. I had previously treated her pelvic girdle pain and she described this “like having a permanent stitch just under my ribs but painful to the degree of making me cry!!”

Why do you suffer with rib pain during pregnancy?
During pregnancy as the baby grows, the abdominal organs get pushed up towards the chest and the rib cage gets crowded by the organs’ upward displacement, thus meaning that the rib cage doesn’t expand as well.

There can be 10-15cm of normal rib flaring due to pregnancy, usually in the last trimester when the fundus is at its maximal height.


With loss of rib expansion there is also loss of thoracic spine movement. The loss of mobility and altered biomechanics can cause inflammation of the cartilage attached to the ribs (or costochondritis if you want to give it a fancy name). The most effective way to manage rib and thoracic spine pain is with manual therapy, postural correction, stretching and deep breathing exercises.

After a thorough examination it was clear that this particular client had some “hypomobility” (the Physio name for stiffness) around her thoracic spine. Treatment consisted of soft tissue mobilisation to tight muscles overlying the area, followed by gentle mobilisations of her spine and ribs, while she lay comfortably (supported with plenty of cushions), on her front.


We completed the treatment with some self help exercises of stretching and deep breathing, and an application of K-tape.

The following day I emailed to check up on how she was doing “I was going to email in the morning - no pain whatsoever today!!! I even slept on my left side last night until my hips started aching! I will keep you posted on how it continues but for 24 hours at least THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!”. In addition to this an email today confirms that aside from the odd twinge her symptoms have completely calmed down!

If you are suffering with any sort of Pregnancy or Postnatal pains, wherever on your body they may be, contact Laura to discuss whether Physiotherapy may be of benefit for you.

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