Relief From Shifted (Popped) Rib Heads! (episode 2)

Upper back discomfort and pain in the rib head area can be a hassle.  Last time I shifted (what some would call a “popped” rib) a rib I can remember trying to pick up our first daughter who was just a few months old at the time.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 3.30.38 PMIt was painful – twisting and lifting the car seat was probably the most painful thing to do.  So, if you’re struggling right now to figure this upper back pain out this may be a great solution.

There’s a few things to remember when you’re trying to solve what may be a shifted rib head…

1 – As soon as you are injured (and even before) your brain’s perception of the upper back/rib head area was likely impaired.  This means there may have been a lack of awareness (what’s called proprioception) before the symptoms even manifested themselves.Undo the Desklife

What I’m really trying to say is – your brain-body connection through your nervous system was quite possibly impaired in some way.  The picture to the right gives an illustration of how things may be SHIFTED in your spine.  The only way to know if you’re shifted is to visit a Neuro-Structural Chiropractor as a shift may be affecting you in ways you feel (popped rib head with pain) – but more importantly in ways you have no idea about.


2 – Foam roll the area above and below the sore spot, then move on to the sore spot later.

I really focus on breathing and arm movement with this one.  Lay on your foam roller or tennis ball so that you’re thoracic spine is in extension and move your arm overhead with thumb pointing behind the body and then reach down for your opposite pocket with thumb turned into the body (internal rotation of the shoulder).Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 12.16.33 PM

The arm movement is important.  Make passes with one arm at a time while resting the other one at your side.  I would make 8-12 passes per side.

If you are too uncomfortable to roll over the symptomatic area I would wait a few days… and focus your first few days above and below the painful area.



3 – Movement and strength is key in this area.  (THE BAND PULL APART)

Many muscles cross over this area.  The rhomboids and spinal erector muscles are all in this area.  Move them – it’s likely they are less than optimally trained.  I use a band pull-apart movement in the range of 15 – 30 reps to help retrain the upper back and shoulders.


If you are uncomfortable… work just outside your comfort zone (1-3 reps when it gets uncomfortable and stop).  Begin to build up some tolerance.

Remember these 3 things are a strategy to help get you back on track.  It would be ideal to apply them regularly.  I did all three things when I was injured – I also do all three things currently while my rib heads have no symptoms just to keep those tissues healthy and moving well so I can keep up with my girls. 

The spinal function (#1) part I do to help keep me healthy as well [i.e. periodic check-ups with my Neuro-Structural Chiropractor, Dr. Jenn] –  because the nervous system controls the body and it’s function is important for overall health and quality of life (ex. helping me keep up with two little girls) – not just rib head challenges.


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