If you have suffered a rib injury, the type of pain and other, associated symptoms may indicate if they are cracked or bruised. Sharp pain, especially in the side; bruising in the same area as the pain; discomfort that grows worse when you move about; difficulty breathing; and a feeling of tightness in the chest can suggest a break or crack. You should see a medical professional if you think your ribs may be broken, especially if you have breathing problems.
The first thing to consider is whether or not you've suffered a blow or been in an accident that is likely to cause such a rib injury. For example, if you've recently been hit in the chest, suffered a fall, or been in a car accident, it's more likely that you could have suffered a cracked or bruised rib. Likewise, if you've had an illness that causes you to cough violently, this can also cause rib damage. If, on the other hand, you have not suffered such issues, you may best consider other sources as more likely causes of your symptoms.
The location of the pain you feel may prove a strong indication of whether you have a cracked or bruised rib or some other issue. If the pain you have is in your side, is moderate to severe, and worsens when you move around or bend over, this can strongly suggest a problem with a rib. You may also notice that the pain in your ribs gets worse when you breathe deeply, laugh, cough, or sneeze. Your discomfort might, however, remain constant to some extent, no matter what you are doing.
You might also notice that the skin in the area in which you feel the pain seems bruised. Such an outward sign is more likely to develop, however, if you have suffered injury to the ribs as the result of a fall, blow, or other type of accident. If the rib injury resulted from coughing, external bruising may be less likely.
It is important to note that a cracked or bruised rib often isn't a minor problem that can safely be ignored. Sometimes, an broken rib can damage lung tissue. As such, it is wise to see a healthcare professional for treatment for any possible rib damage. Additionally, if you have symptoms like chest tightness and problems breathing, seek immediate emergency care.