Buckling up when getting in your car is fortunately routine for most of us and it saves lives. Statistics show that the risk of deadly injuries are reduced by 45–50% when drivers and front seat passengers use a seat belt. Back seat passengers that buckle up reduce the risk by 25% .
Seat belts alone do not guarantee that drivers and passengers are safe if a car accident happens. People can get hurt by the impact pressure from the seat belt itself. Such injuries vary from minor to serious depending on the severity of the sudden halt or accident.
Minor injuries caused by a seat belt usually consist of bruising and scrapes, while high-impact crashes often cause fractures of the sternum or ribs, or may cause neck or spine injuries, dislocations of joints, internal organ damage, or internal bleeding.
Chest trauma is the most common crash injury in the older population . The force required to cause rib fractures in the elderly is less compared to young patients due to osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass, and possible combinations of other medical conditions .
Blunt force to the chest such as after falls, sports injuries or involvement in violent behavior may also result in broken ribs or a fractured sternum. Surgery could be necessary depending on how severe the rib or sternum fracture is. Nonsurgical treatment options typically consist of rest, cold treatment on the injured area for several days, pain medicine, and deep breathing exercises.
Physical therapy may also be prescribed to reduce stiffness in shoulders and arms after weeks of inactivity. Usually sternum and rib fractures take up to 8 weeks to heal if you otherwise are in a healthy condition. Healing time for older patients may be considerably longer due to osteoporosis or other medical conditions.
Having a sternum or rib fracture hurts and every breath can be painful. Coughing, sneezing, straining, and even laughing hurts. The issue is that you have to cough and take deep breaths during recovery as that will help to decrease the risk of pneumonia. In addition, the pain from a fractured sternum or broken ribs may make it very difficult for you to do common activities at home, like handling personal care, dressing yourself or lifting things.
What can help you in such an uncomfortable situation?
It was common in the past that doctors would use elastic bandages to make a tight compression wrap around your chest to help splint and immobilize the broken ribs or sternum which would also help to decrease pain. Such compression wraps are not recommended anymore because they can restrict breathing which increases the risk of pneumonia.
Cold therapy by placing ice packs on the injured area is often recommended. Ice reduces pain and is appropriate for all types of broken ribs or sternum, and basically any musculoskeletal injury. The cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict, which reduces inflammation and swelling, and it helps to numb the surrounding nerves, which reduces pain.
An effective cold treatment requires placing ice packs over the injured area for 20 minutes every hour you are awake for the first two days. After that it is usually reduced to 10 – 20 minutes three times daily for as many days as it gives relief. The ice packs should be wrapped in a thin cloth before placing it against the bruised region to reduce the risk of ice burn or frostbite.
If you have experienced having broken ribs or an injured sternum you might recognize this scenario:
Getting home from the hospital to start recovery you have been provided with pain killers and with instructions to rest, conduct cold treatment, and to do breathing exercises.
• Unless you have full time assistance the first days, how can you get proper rest if you have to hold the ice packs in the correct position and exchange them every 20 minutes the first couple of days?
• While cold treatment may be recommended, the remedies to carry it out are often not given to you when you are leaving the hospital or doctor’s office. You may be told to use a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a cloth and holding it with your hands against the injured area. You will need several packs of peas to make a good cold treatment every 20 min during the first days.
• Another question is how can you do deep breathing exercises at the same time when it hurts just breathing normally?
Qualiteam has several tools to help you to a stress-free recovery with less pain after broken ribs or a fractured sternum:
The QualiBreath sternum and chest support created for heart surgery patients is not only relieving pain after a sternotomy but is also very useful for broken ribs or a fractured sternum.
Another tool is the CryoPouch, a two-pocket pouch with 2 gel packs for adding a soothing cooling therapy on a bruised area or fractured bone(s).
Here is how it works:
The frozen gel packs are placed in the pockets of the CryoPouch which is placed behind the QualiBreath over the injured ribs or sternum that needs cooling. The pouch can be positioned anywhere under the QualiBreath and is closed around it with 2 elastic bands with velcro. You can now relax with your hands free while having a cool treatment.
QualiBreath by itself helps you to breathe with less pain. It is designed to not obstruct breathing or cover the upper abdomen. The elastic support of the sore ribs and muscles eases pain when breathing, and because the upper abdomen is not covered you can do deeper abdominal breathing which is so important to prevent pneumonia. In addition, 2 handgrips are integrated in the design. When brought together the encircling chest support is increased which helps you to control pain during coughing, sneezing or straining.
QualiBreath simply helps you to a more relaxed management of cold treatment on your chest, and to do breathing exercises with less pain.
But wait- QualiBreath is an elastic binder and we said earlier that elastic bandages are not used anymore for treatment of broken ribs?That is correct. However, keep in mind that elastic bandages used in the past were wide bandages wrapped tightly around the chest covering the upper abdomen as well. Or - abdominal binders were used and they also covered the upper abdominal area. Such bandages and abdominal binders obstructed breathing with the risk of causing pneumonia.
QualiBreath is a different elastic binder. It has a proper width to support sore ribs and muscles without obstructing breathing, it promotes deeper abdominal breathing and has means to increase support around the chest - besides that it helps to make cold treatment a breeze.
When you are ready to buckle up again in the car you might want to have a closer look at another handy tool: Qualiteam’s seat belt protection pad.
The soft QualiPad is a cushion between you and the seat belt. It lets you have your hands free since there is now no need to hold the seatbelt away from a sore wound, sternum or broken rib. Most importantly, QualiPad does not change the position of the seatbelt on your body so safety measures with regards to seat belts are maintained. The correct position of a seat belt on a driver or passenger is one of the keys to prevent seat belt-related injuries :
• The shoulder belt should be placed across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.
• The lap belt should be placed firmly across your hips and below your stomach.
• Never place the shoulder strap behind your back or under your arm, especially merely out of desire for comfort.
• No belt should ever be uncomfortably tight or so loose as to allow the occupant to freely move about in the seat.
The QualiPad fits both on the shoulder belt and the lap belt of any seat belt. When not in use the QualiPad simply remains on the seatbelt in the car so you don’t have to remember to bring it along when going for a drive.
Buckle up in safety and protect yourself. Make recovery from broken ribs or a fractured sternum less painful and easier on yourself with dedicated tools.Qualiteam specializes in creating useful tools to help patients to have a smooth recovery with less pain. If you want to be kept updated about our activities, make sure you are registered for our newsletters.
1. Elvik R, Høye A, Vaa T, Sørensen M. The handbook of road safety measures, 2nd edition. Bingley: Emerald Publishing; 2009 (https://www.emerald.com/insight/publication/doi/10.1108/978184855251) (https://www.euro.who.int/en/publications/abstracts/european-regional-status-report-on-road-safety-2019
3. [Chrysou et al. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine (2017) 25:42 DOI 10.1186/s13049-017-0384-y]
4. (National Highway and Safety Administration https://www.nhtsa.gov/ - European Transport Safety Council https://etsc.eu/)