Rib treatment

Rib pain and physiotherapy treatment

Our rib cage is an essential for protection of our organs, having a strong trunk and is involved in our everyday movements, like breathing or turning our bodies. Our rib cage rises and falls with each breath using the muscles between the ribs and our diaphragm. Just like any other joint and muscle, these areas can be loaded and irritated. Rib pain is frustrating and can be treated with Physiotherapy.


Sometimes rib pain is hard to describe because there is not a specific place where it occurs. Often, we hear comments like:

  • “When I take a deep breath, it hurts”
  • “I have a burning or achiness at the middle of my back”
  • “There is a pain under my shoulder blade that I cannot reach with a trigger ball or roller”
  • “I have pain that starts in my back but wraps around my side”

Other times, it is more obvious as to why there may be pain in the ribs or around the ribs, and clients may come in already with a diagnosis from their GP or another physiotherapist, including:

  • Rib fractures – this may be diagnosed with an x-ray, but small fractures are sometimes hard to pick up even with a scan 
  • Rib pain in pregnancy – as the belly expands, then rib cage also has to make space accordingly
  • Costochondritis syndrome – inflammation of the area where the rib is attaching to the sternum at the front of the chest
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome – an issue with blood flow that may be associated with compression from the upper ribs of the blood vessels branching out to the arms
  • Rib spasm – a reactive response of the muscles between the ribs called intercostals
  • It may also stem from restrictive clothes such as tight bra and binder


Our holistic approach at Barefoot Physiotherapy will help to determine the underling causes and triggers related to your rib pain. We implement a specific rib technique that treats the rib cage as a ring, called Thoracic Rings (developed and taught by LJ Lee, a Canadian physio). This approach looks at each ring and how they may be interacting with each other, therefore, causing load and muscle pull in your area of pain. This understanding is termed Connect Therapy (LJ Lee).

Our treatment techniques involve rib joint mobilizations, manual therapy rib and ring corrections, muscle release for the intercostals (between rib muscles) and surrounding areas like the back and shoulders, individually tailored motor control activation, and maintenance exercises.

Rib pain is not always straightforward, and we are here to help you understand where it is coming from so that you are able to return to your everyday life without having to worry about it. We will develop a treatment plan based on your specific presentation and create self-management strategies to maintain being pain free.

If you or someone you know is experiencing rib, trunk, or chest pain, please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or click here to book an appointment.

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