Osteopathy Overview

Our resident osteopath explains popping or slipping rib syndrome

JAN 2023

Catherine our resident osteopath in Wigan explains POPPING OR SLIPPING RIB SYNDROME


The rib cage

There are twelve ribs located bilaterally from the thoracic spine to the sternum. Seven ribs connect directly to the sternum, three ribs attach via a common cartilage to the sternum and two ribs are free floating. There are several groups of muscles and ligaments that are associated with the rib cage for stability and mobility of the rib and spinal tissues.

Injury to any of these structures can cause pain to the thoracic region and local pain to the rib joints.

Popping or slipping rib syndrome

When someone has this condition a rib may protrude more than its neighbouring ribs due to the cartilage in the lower ribs slipping.  It often clicks or pops on movement or coughing. Other names for the syndrome include clicking rib, displaced ribs, and interchondral subluxation.

It is most common in females, and although not well understood, is thought to be associated with trauma and  hyper-mobility.


The symptoms of slipping rib syndrome vary from person to person, but mostly include intermittent sharp stabbing pain in the upper abdomen or back, followed by a dull achy sensation. Slipping, popping or clicking sensations in the lower ribs may cause problems breathing.  Symptoms may get aggravated when bending, lifting, coughing, sneezing, deep breathing, stretching or turning in bed. Symptoms often occur on one side.

Treatment for popping/slipping rib syndrome

Home treatment can include resting;, avoiding strenuous activities, applying heat or ice to affected area, taking painkillers or anti-inflammatories, doing stretching exercises and breathing exercises.

If pain continues after the above home treatments,  further intervention such as osteopath or physiotherapy treatment may assist in recovery. Corticosteroid injection, and intercostal nerve blocks may give the ease if required.


Contact details: for more information and advice: Catherine Wasik BSc Hons Ost; BSc Hons MNIMH Registered Osteopath and Medical Herbalist, With acupuncture training and rehabilitation pilates instructor training At George Morris Physiotherapy Clinics in Hindley and Ashton.