Broken ribs in back, still broke after 6 mos

Patient

Q: I was in a car accident 6 mos ago and it hurt really bad in the middle of my back when the car hit us from behind going 65mph (we were sitting still). The ER just did an x-ray on my neck. I had a complete vaginal prolapse and had the surgery where they attach the vaginal wall to a ligament, then I got the flu (I coughed my head off), so I guess I was attributing all the pain to that. I finally went to a back dr. and I have a couple broken ribs in the back. From the x-ray it looks like there is still about 1/4 in. gap. He was not very personable and didn't say much. After looking on the internet, it says they should heal in about 6 wks. I'm miserable. I wear those heat patches, but it gets so tired and hurts so bad. The only thing that helps is to lay down. I didn't even think to ask how long this is going to take and will I always have problems. I have some other problems from an ATV (scar tissue between my should blade and rib cage), so we talked about that mostly since it's been a problem for along time. Can you tell me how long you thinks it's going to take and if it's going to be a problem forever?

Symptoms:  I the question
Doctor

A:   Hello,
Thanks for contacting askthedoctor.com for an opinion.
If the injury to the back during an accident has resulted in posterior rib fractures and luckily it is not causing any breathing difficulty , then it would take around 6-8 weeks to heal and thereafter remodelling would take another 3 months. The back has to be supported with a shoulder and spinal brace to maintain inactivity which shall promote healing faster. Secondly the pain can be decreased by heat packs or regular hot fomentation with concomitant use of NSAIDS. Any kind of activity which can cause back sprain / stretch or pressure especially while lifting weights should be avoided.
You may choose to opt for enzymes tabs and calcium tablets as supportive treatment to allow early healing as well. after 6 weeks you may repeat an x - ray to check for healing and callus formation and review with your physician.
I hope i have answered your query in detail,
Wishing you good health,
regards

Comments / Follow Ups

Patient: I guess that answers it. It's been 6 mos and it's obvious from the x-rays that they are not healed (connected). What if they don't connect properly?
Doctor: In that case its a non healed fracture and as you are in severe pain, it has to be dealth surgically and probably a metal plates have to be placed at the fracture site at each fractured rib to join it again after refreshing the margins. You have to discuss the possibility with your physician and take an informed decision.
regards

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