One of the biggest challenges patients and caregivers face after rib fractures is getting out of bed, because of the pain they experience.
The easiest way to get out of bed with broken ribs is to avoid torsional (twist) movement and rolling to the strong side.
In this article, I’ll share a few ways to make it easier to get out of bed with broken ribs.
Disclaimer: Before attempting these techniques, you should always practice with a licensed therapist.
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How to help mobilize patients in bed
One of the best ways to help patients with bed mobility is by increasing your surface area to the area that needs to be moved.
For example, if a patient needs to roll side to side, use a sheet under the patient and pull the sheet rather than the patient’s arms and legs.
This will not only be more comfortable for the patient, but it will reduce risk of injury for you and your patient. The same goes for helping patients get out of bed.
Standing with rib fractures
After the patient is upright, do a quick test to see if they are able to stand. They should be able to stay balanced and not lean toward one side.
If they’re not feeling dizzy, have them put one hand on the walker and the other hand on the bed or bed rail. Use a gait belt if needed.
They may need to sit close to the edge of the bed with their nose in front of their toes before standing.
If they can’t stand yet, consider using a sara stedy. This will also be an easy way to help them transfer to the toilet or wheelchair.
Can you use a recliner with rib fractures
A recliner can make all the difference for someone recovering from broken ribs. It may not be the most comfortable for every patient, but it completely eliminates the problem of getting out of bed from a flat position.
With a recliner, the patient only needs to be able to stand from a seated position. Some recliners are too low, but other recliners have a lift feature to make standing easier. They’re also much less expensive than hospital beds.
If getting out of bed is difficult, a recliner is a simple solution, but I wouldn’t recommend them to people who are unable to stand.
Using a mechanical lift
A mechanical lift can be useful for caregivers who are unable to safely assist patients out of bed or for patients who require assistance from two or more people.
Lifts can also be beneficial for patients who have multiple injuries from a motor vehicle accident and may not be able to get out of bed due to a fractured spine, arm or leg.
A mechanical lift can be expensive, but it may be worth the expense to reduce the cost of injuring the caregiver.
Using the toilet
There are many ways to make toileting easier after rib fractures. Be sure to read about them in my other article here.
Rib pain may seem like a never ending battle, but getting out of bed more frequently and sitting upright can make a difference in the long run.
Here are some ways to reduce pain from rib fractures:
Give your body time to heal by getting plenty of sleep and avoiding positions of discomfort. Consider a body pillow to keep your legs an arms abducted while laying on your side.
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve pain. If your pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.
Applying ice to the affected area for the first 48 to 72 hours can help reduce pain and swelling. The ice pack below can be use around your ribs.
Deep breathing exercises can help expand your chest. Talk to your respiratory therapist about using an incentive spirometer to increase your lung expansion to get more oxygen.
Avoid slouching or hunching over, which can put additional strain on your ribs. Instead, sit or stand with good posture to reduce discomfort.
Wearing an abdominal binder can help relieve pain and help reduce swelling. If you have high blood pressure you might want to avoid an abdominal binder. Talk to your doctor first to see if it’s appropriate for you.
Meal preparationTry Amazon Fresh
Cooking can be problematic if you still have an acute rib fracture. You may consider the following options for meal preparation:
- Asking for help from friends, family, or a professional caregiver.
- Preparing meals in advance and storing them in the freezer for future use.
- Purchasing pre-made, prepared meals or ordering takeout or delivery.
- Using slow cookers, Instant Pots, and other small kitchen appliances to prepare meals without the need for standing for long periods.
- Following recipes that are simple, require minimal preparation time and effort, and do not cause discomfort while cooking.
Getting in the car and shopping for an hour may also be problematic if the pain is intolerable. Consider meal deliveries like amazon fresh or instacart.
Getting out of bed with broken ribs can be a real challenge. Using the right equipment can be helpful and reduce pain. Here are a few summary points.
- Roll to the unaffected side
- Consider a power lift recliner
- Use a mechanical lift if mobilizing the patient is unsafe
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David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.