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Hypermobility Rib Subluxation – Ideas for Prevention

I know it can be a common thing in hypermobility and it is very painful.
It can make us anxious about exercising as we fear a subluxation. Some people have even been told by some medical professionals that a rib subluxation is physically impossible – but I think if you have hypermobility you may disagree with this.

It’s only happened to me once, thankfully, when attempting to demonstrate an advanced exercise in a Pilates mat class many years ago. I hadn’t prepared myself; I was rushing to demo and was generally anxious about doing it. It was a rollover exercise that requires a lot of thoracic mobility. My thoracic spine has always been my stiffest area – I literally felt it pop as I rolled over into the exercise. I had to continue as I had a room full of clients intently watching me.

But this got me thinking about the whole rib subluxation topic. Why had it happened to me that particular time and that’s what helped formulate my theory on how to prevent them.

And it’s never happened again. I firmly believe the common stiffness of the thoracic spine that many people with hypermobility have is partly the cause for rib subluxations. If I have a stiff, immobile ribcage and possibly a breathing pattern disorder as well (which I also see as a very common occurrence in hypermobility), when I ask my body to do a sudden or strenuous move (like the roll over I attempted) there is not enough elastic flexibility in the ribs to cope with this. Maybe I turn suddenly to look over my shoulder or pick up a heavy bag. Maybe I am also breathing in a shallow way or am holding my breath. I could also be bracing or guarding my abdomen, which tends to cause a pressure chamber scenario.

All these factors add up to a ribcage that acts like a ‘cage’. It is fixed, tense and generally tight. It’s not responsive to extra stresses. Under the extra stress and strain, the ribs have little choice but to pop.

So how do we stop this being a regular thing? My first go to is breathing. With some simple breathing practices that focus on gentle expansion of the ribs and thorax, you can achieve a lot. Not only do you start to get natural movement in the thorax, but you also start to relax those over working muscles around the ribcage.

From there, you can start to add in gentle mobilisation movements with the breath to encourage fluidity and flow.

If you are interested in learning more about my technique, I’ve got two videos on this topic over on my YouTube channel. I will guide you through the breathing practice.

Here’s to no more rib subluxations!

3 Comments
  • Emma Stath
    Posted at 22:30h, 19 December Reply

    They are actually more common that doctors think. I had my first one 20 years ago and after menopause they became more frequent. They usually happen when carrying groceries or in my sleep if sleeping on a memory foam bed which makes it very difficult for me to turn in bed and I get ‘stuck’. They can be mild to serious and the pain varies accordingly from mild to excruciating. Not many PTs or chirocpractors know how to address this problem and I would warmly recommend to avoid chiropractors altogether, but to try out knowledgeable PTs and osteopaths.

  • Jeanne Morgan
    Posted at 17:08h, 22 February Reply

    Thank you!!! I have subluxated ribs at least 7 or 8 times over the last 15 years or so. I am 64, it seems like the older I get, the more frequent these events have become. I just did it again while recovering from covid and having a coughing fit. I am really interested in your techniques for strengthening this area ti see if this will help me. It’s quite painful, and takes several weeks to heal, so I’m hopeful that your exercises will help.

    • Jeannie Di Bon
      Posted at 11:49h, 24 February Reply

      Thank you – I do hope my method helps you.

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