Rib Flare: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Managing this Physical Condition

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Managing this Physica

In my work as a physical therapist, I frequently encounter patients who are struggling to understand words they have come across in their own research or medical consultations. Rib flare is one such expression. 

Today, we'll examine in detail what rib flare is, its causes, potential effects, and available treatments. You'll have a thorough understanding of this ailment and how to treat it at the end of this talk.

Rib Flare: The Basics

Let's begin by defining the phrase "rib flare." It is a physical condition in which the lowest portion of the rib cage protrudes upward and outward rather than gradually descending. 

This may cause a 'flaring' effect on the sides of the body that is obvious. Although rib flare normally doesn't cause any harm, it can occasionally be a sign of undiagnosed medical problems or postural problems.

What Causes Rib Flare?

There are various possible reasons of rib flare. Rib flare can result from poor posture, especially in people who spend a lot of time sitting down. 

In this situation, the abdominal muscles deteriorate and are unable to support the rib cage adequately. The ribs 'flare' outward as a result of this loss of support.

Breathing habits and bone issues are two more potential explanations. The continual upward strain on the rib cage that results from breathing from the chest as opposed to the diaphragm can cause rib flare in people. 

In the meantime, rib flare can also be brought on by specific skeletal problems like scoliosis or pectus excavatum (a condition where the breastbone sinks into the chest).

What does rib flare look like?

As the name implies, rib flare is a physical ailment where the lowest section of the rib cage protrudes outward and upward, giving the appearance of "flaring out" rather than sloping down smoothly.

You may notice that the lower ribs, in particular, stick out or push forward more than usual in a person standing straight without a shirt on or wearing a fitting top. 

When viewed from the side or at an angle, this is more obvious. Instead of being smooth or having a more natural downward slope, the rib cage has a tendency to curve outward across the lower ribs.

When rib flare is linked to diseases like scoliosis, it can occasionally be more noticeable on one side. Sometimes it could be less overt and perceptible. Lifting the arms or arching the back can emphasize the outward curve of the lower ribcage, making rib flare normally more noticeable.

However, keep in mind that every person's body is unique and that there is a wide spectrum of what might be regarded as normal. 

The best course of action is to speak with a doctor or physical therapist if you have any concerns about the way your rib cage looks, or if it is making you uncomfortable or causing other problems.

Notice the ribs in each position of exercise the skeleton is depicted in: 

skeleton sitting gyro

Is rib flare rare?

Even though the prevalence of rib flare might vary greatly depending on the etiology, it is not extremely uncommon. 

People with bad posture or weak abdominal muscles are frequently affected, especially those who spend a lot of time sitting down. People who regularly breathe from their chest rather than their diaphragm may also experience it.

Less frequent bone disorders that can produce rib flare include scoliosis and pectus excavatum. These ailments are however remain generally well-known and frequently seen in physical therapy settings.

Keep in mind that rib flare is frequently not a cause for concern, but it might be a sign of other problems. It can be wise to see a doctor to rule out any underlying issues if you or someone else develops a rib flare.

What is the Impact of Rib Flare?

Although rib flares by themselves are frequently painless and don't directly result in health problems, they can be a sign of other disorders. 

If left untreated, rib flare associated with bad posture can result in chronic back discomfort, muscle strain, and long-term musculoskeletal issues.

Inefficient oxygen intake brought on by poor breathing patterns can also produce rib flare, which may have an impact on one's general health and level of fitness.

 Rib Flare Improve-your-posture-while-holding-your-baby

"Improve your posture while holding your baby"

How Do You Address Rib Flare?

The management of rib flare frequently centers on dealing with the underlying cause. This can involve physical therapy, core stability, and posture-improving exercises, as well as breathing drills that encourage diaphragmatic breathing as opposed to chest breathing.

Physical therapy can assist to strengthen weakened muscles and improve posture. This helps relieve any discomfort associated with rib flare, such as back pain or muscular stress, in addition to addressing its aesthetic element. 

It is frequently advised to perform workouts for the core like planks, dead bugs, and bird dogs.

On the other side, when chest breathing causes rib flare, breathing exercises are essential. By retraining the body to breathe from the diaphragm, these workouts hope to lessen pressure on the rib cage when it rises.

When skeletal issues are the cause of rib flare, treatment may combine physical therapy, exercises, and in rare situations, surgical surgery. It's always advisable to speak with a healthcare professional to figure out the best course of action in each unique circumstance.

 Rib Flare Cheryl-performing-Gyrotonic-exercise-with-her-ribs-connecte

"Cheryl performing Gyrotonic exercise with her ribs connected."

Can You Completely Fix Rib Flare?

The root cause of rib flare has a significant impact on whether it can be "completely fixed".

When rib flare is brought on by bad posture or weak abdominal muscles, it may frequently be greatly reduced or even eliminated with focused physical therapy and certain exercises designed to strengthen the core and correct body alignment.

By learning and implementing breathing techniques that emphasize using the diaphragm, rib flare that is habitually induced by chest breathing as opposed to diaphragmatic breathing can be reduced.

The situation can be more complicated if the rib flare is brought on by skeletal issues like scoliosis or pectus excavatum. 

Exercise and physical therapy can help manage the symptoms and enhance posture, but they might not be able to entirely stop the rib flare. Surgery may be required in certain extreme circumstances.

It's crucial to remember that every person's situation is different, and treatment outcomes can change. Therefore, for individualized guidance and treatment alternatives, it is always better to speak with a healthcare expert or a physical therapist.


Gyrotonic Exercise to Improve Rib Flare

Does Exercise Help With Rib Flare?

For strengthening the core, exercises like the plank, bird-dog, and dead bug are frequently suggested. In addition, the emphasis on body alignment, core stability, and mindful movement seen in Pilates and yoga may be helpful.

If habitual chest breathing is the cause of the rib flare, breathing techniques may be helpful. By improving the body's ability to use the diaphragm, these workouts help to lessen the upward strain on the ribcage. 


Although the word "rib flare" may seem frightening, the illness is controllable once understood. Understanding the causes, effects, and available treatments will help you manage the issue whether you're experiencing it yourself or know someone who is. 

When dealing with physical ailments like rib flare, keep in mind that while online tools are useful, it is always preferable to speak with a healthcare professional.

Call 512-215-4227 to learn more about how we can help you with your rib flare. Our physical therapy and pilates programs are designed to improve your core strength and postural awareness, so you know where your ribs are in space and how to improve the position. 

External Links:

See what the National Institutes of Health have to say about flaring the rib cage at here.

Read more about How to Fix Flared Ribs.