An uneven ribcage can be worrisome for those who do not understand the cause behind it. Many people do not pay attention to their ribs, and may not notice they have an uneven ribcage. Most people end up noticing after they lose weight, see in a picture, or someone else points it out to them. There are multiple causes that can result in one of your ribs sticking out more. Usually the lower ribs are the ones people notice stick out more.
Most of the time one of your ribs sticking out more than the others is not a concern. It is quite common for people to have slightly uneven ribcages. As a Physical Therapist, I see it very often. I am going to be explaining some causes behind uneven ribs, and some things you can do to help fix it. A lot of times uneven ribs can be corrected with exercises, stretches, and bracing. Although, it will take some time for the ribs to even out.
Main Causes of Uneven Ribs
One of the main causes of an uneven ribcage is scoliosis. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. An abnormal curve of the spine can cause the ribs to shift slightly. Even a minor scoliosis can be enough to cause the ribs to appear slightly uneven. Some common signs of scoliosis are uneven shoulders, uneven legs, and ribcage protrusions.
Another main cause of uneven ribs is abdominal muscle weakness. The majority of the abdominal muscles are inter-connected between the ribcage. So the abdominal muscles play a huge factor in the movement and position of the ribs. If you have abdominal muscle weakness on one side, you may notice those ribs sticking out more. Normally, strong abdominal muscles help keep the ribcage aligned and even. However, weak abdominal muscles cannot support and stabilize the ribs like normal.
A lot of times people suffer a small rib injury without noticing, especially as a kid. As a kid, we often fall, play sports, wrestle with siblings, etc. and all these can cause minor rib sprains. It is not until we are older that we notice the results of these injuries. Minor rib sprains can be painless, and our bodies will heal them on its own. The healing process may cause some extra calcification and/or fibrous tissue to build up. This can cause one of the ribs to stick out more, and for the ribcage to appear uneven.
An uneven ribcage is often caused by muscle tightness, and this can cause one of your ribs to stick out more than the others. Muscle tightness is very common near the ribcage, because we are often in a sitting position. This puts our abdominal musculature in a compressed position. Overtime, muscles will become shortened from this position, and they will become tight. Abdominal muscle tightness can pull on the ribcage causing it to become uneven.
Not everyone is built the same way, and sometimes our skeletal structure differs from one-another. The ribcage is one part of the skeletal structure that can change depending on genetics. Often times birth defects can result in ribcage abnormalities. So the reason one of your ribs sticks out more than the other, may be due to genetic causes. Usually, uneven ribs due to genetic reasons are not problematic, and some people may never even notice.
Ways to Correct Uneven Ribs
Minor uneven ribs can be corrected with exercises, stretches, and bracing. Severe ribcage unevenness may require surgery. If you believe your ribcage is severely uneven or accompanied by pain, I recommend seeing your physician.
I recommend abdominal strengthening exercises as the main focus to fix uneven ribs. The abdominal muscles play a tremendous role in the position of our ribs. Some of the best exercises to stabilize and support the ribcage are planks, pelvic tilts, and ab-wheel rollouts. The ab-wheel helps stretch and strengthen the entire core while providing stability. I recommend using the ab-wheel 3-4x a week, for 3 sets of 10-12 reps. Start on your knees, and slowly roll the wheel out and in, remembering to breathe. This is absolutely one of the best abdominal exercises. The ab-wheel provides a gentle pull/stretch on the ribcage, and can help even out the ribs.
Stretching is crucial to maintain healthy posture and flexibility. Especially to help correct the muscle tightness that we accumulate from sitting most of the day. I recommend performing stretches daily for 10-15 minutes, holding each stretch for 30-45 seconds. Some of the best stretches for the ribcage are yoga poses. Try these yoga poses illustrated in the image below. Do these daily, and you should notice a major difference in your posture and ribcage. I recommend trying a beginners yoga class!
There are some really great mobility tools on the market today. I often advise my patients to purchase a foam roller, yoga wheel, inversion table, etc. These products can be great for the spine & ribcage. Often times the ribs get compressed from sitting all day, and these products help expand/decompress the ribcage. I recommend using the inversion table, foam roller, and yoga wheel multiple times a day. Take a break from sitting, and use the foam roller/yoga wheel for a couple minutes. Adding this to your daily routine will make a huge difference, and help even out your ribcage. I’ve had clients use the inversion table and foam roller daily, and they notice their ribs do not stick out as much on the one side.
The Best Products to Help Fix Uneven Ribs
- The foam roller is hands down one of the best products to help any spine or ribcage abnormalities. The foam roller provides a deep spine and ribcage stretch, while providing decompression. Foam rollers help expand the ribcage, and overtime can help correct the unevenness.
- The yoga wheel is one of my favorites to use daily. The yoga wheel provides a slightly deeper stretch compared to the foam roller. I prefer to use the yoga wheel after sitting long periods of time. This will provide a decompression and expansion of your ribcage.
- The inversion table is a great product to have at home. An inversion table provides the most decompression, and can help even out your rib cage overtime. The inversion table needs to be used daily for the most benefits. I recommend starting with only about 45-60 seconds, and then building up your time.
- A ribcage brace is an option for those of you who may have suffered an injury or trauma to the ribs. If you believe your ribs are uneven due to ribcage injury, then you can help wear the brace for support.
Your ribcage is a big part of your overall appearance, and it can be bothersome to have ribs that stick out more than others. I recommend figuring out what may be the cause of your uneven ribs, and then try the exercises, stretches, and mobility tools to help correct it. Remember it will take time, but it is important to stay committed with the exercises, stretches, and mobility tools. Use these products daily to see the most benefits.
If your ribs are sticking out following a traumatic event or injury, then seek medical attention. Most of the time uneven ribs are harmless, and not a major cause of concern. However, if your ribs are accompanied by any pain or other symptoms I recommend seeing a physician.