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Broken Ribs - Can I Scuba in 7 weeks?

Hi folks. I broke my ribs on the 18th of November in a horseback riding accident. I broke 2 and fractured 2 on my right side. I have been managing the pain with Advil and Tylonel (alternating) since then but haven't had anything regularly for the last 2-3days as I don't feel I need it and don't want to get dependent on anything.

I have a scuba diving vacation planned with family on January 5th through the 11th. I would rather be safe than sorry but also would hate to miss out on scuba. Will I be able to scuba by then? It will be 7weeks since the fracture around then.

I've been putting Arnica oil & gel on it and also Cetyl-M cream and both seem to really help. I've seen and heard a lot of folks w/ broken ribs a whole lot worse off than me. I honestly though I only sprained or bruised the ribs when it happened and not full on breaks as my pain wasn't as bad as folks say - but turns out I did quite a number on myself! Oops.

Thanks in advance!
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First Helper User Profile Gaelic
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replied December 1st, 2012
Especially eHealthy
SaltyDuck,

Sorry about your accident.

I am a bit confused, as in medicine, a broken bone and a fractured bone are the same thing. So, I am not sure what you mean by "I broke 2 and fractured 2 on my right side." Do you mean that you have broken four ribs? But, anyways...

Usually, ribs will be united in about 4-6 weeks. But, when the bone breaks, it is not the only thing injured, as the muscles and other soft tissues are also injured. And, many times, it is the soft tissue injury that causes the patient the most trouble.

As long as you can take deep breaths without any pain, you are probably okay. You might want to see if you can jog or exercise, and not have any problems breathing. If you get short of breath or have discomfort with exercise, then you may not want to go diving, until you can do that.


If you have any concerns, see your physician before you leave for your vacation. It would be best to be able to see a dive officer, but most physicians can check you out well enough.

X-rays do not really help much, because the fractures can be healed, but the patient can still have problems with the soft tissues, preventing them from taking a deep breath without pain. As long as you can breath and exercise without difficulty/pain, you should be okay to dive. But, again, if you have any concerns, see your physician before leaving. Good luck.


Have fun on your vacation.
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replied December 1st, 2012
Hi Gaelic, thanks for the response! I ride horses so broken ribs kind of come with the territory. Wink I meant that 2 were completely broken and separated and 2 were cracked.

I currently can breathe, yawn, clear my throat without much pain. I can do little coughs but nothing big and sneezes hurt.

I do plan to see my physician before I go (plus I have a follow up!) so I'll ask him then.

I THINK I'll be fine but of course only time will tell.....

Thanks for your help!
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replied December 1st, 2012
Especially eHealthy
SaltyDuck,

Be sure to see your physician a bit before you leave. Again, try to exercise before seeing the physician to see how you do.

It is possible to injure the underlying lung tissue, which can cause problems with oxygen exchange. This would probably not show up on just usual everyday activities. But, when exercising, if there is any problem with oxygen exchange, to the point of not getting enough oxygen to the brain, heart, and muscles, it will show up then.

If you are able to jog and exercise without pain or shortness of breath, then you are probably exchanging the O2 well enough.

Good luck. Have fun on your vacation.
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