What to Do If Your Kid’s Ribs Stick Out

What to Do If Your Kid’s Ribs Stick Out

Does your child’s chest have any protruding ribs? Any parent would be concerned about this condition. But it happens more frequently than you might imagine. But why do ribs flare? Is the condition serious? And how might it be handled? Continue reading to learn the potential causes of this condition and non-surgical remedies.

Reasons That Could Cause an Uneven Rib Cage

Why do your kid’s ribs protrude? The lower ribs protrude from the rest of the chest in this disease, also known as rib flare or rib flaring abnormality.

So what could be the causes of rib flare? Most frequently, a structural abnormality or abdominal weakness causes this. Pectus carinatum, a congenital disorder that causes an overgrowth of the breastbone cartilage, is one prevalent cause in kids. This causes the lower ribs to be pulled higher and outward than usual, which makes ribs stick out.

However, rib flare could also be brought on by other factors. These may consist of:

  • Rib flare malformation that is congenital (occurring without pectus carinatum). However, it doesn’t happen very often.
  • Injury to the abdominal muscles is more common in adults than in children. For instance, postpartum ladies or people who suffer an acute abdominal injury may sustain muscle damage. It is unlikely to happen in healthy children, though.
  • Weakness in the abdominal muscles may result from poor breathing techniques, such as breathing primarily through the chest muscles rather than the diaphragm.
  • Poor posture, such as an excessive curve in the spine. Both front-to-back curvature (hyperlordosis) and side-to-side curvature are susceptible to this (scoliosis).

Rib Flare Symptoms and Signs

A protrusion of the ribs is the most evident symptom of rib flare. Flaring is either unilateral (affecting only one side of the chest, usually the left) or bilateral (occurring on both sides of the chest). In addition to rib flare, some patients may also experience upper chest flattening. While congenital rib flaring may not be noticeable at a young age, it normally becomes more noticeable around puberty as the chest bones and cartilage mature and enlarges. In these situations, rib flare may be forewarned by pectus carinatum symptoms. These include a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, a severely bent spine, and chest pain.

Along with bad posture, weak abdominal muscles, back pain and tightness, and shallow breathing, rib flares can also manifest as other symptoms. These are secondary consequences of having flared ribs and are caused by an anterior pelvic tilt.

Rib Flare Testing and Diagnosis

A doctor will typically diagnose rib flare after a physical examination and, in some circumstances, a chest X-ray could be necessary. A physiotherapist or other healthcare provider may be able to offer assistance if you are unable to see a doctor.

There are two quick ways to determine whether your child has rib flare, though. The first step is to compare how much their ribs protrude while their arms are at their sides to how much protrudes when their arms are raised over their heads. When their arms are raised, the flaring may become more pronounced, indicating rib flare.

The alternative strategy is to ask your kid to lie on their back. If there is a significant distance between their lower back arch and the floor, it may be a sign that they have rib flaring. However, it is crucial to stress that your doctor should validate any diagnosis.

Treatment for Rib Abnormality

Bracing is advised as the first line of treatment for rib flare in most patients. This course of treatment compresses the lower ribs into the correct shape using specially-made orthotic braces. The breastbone and rib cartilage can still be re-trained to grow in the proper shape, making it most successful in younger children (pre-teen to early teens). Bracing, however, can also assist in developing the abdominal muscles’ ability to maintain the position of the lower ribs. As a result, advantages can also be noticed when utilized on adults or older kids.

The brace must be worn regularly and for a long time to be effective. Usually, realigning the ribs requires constant bracing for 6 to 12 months, followed by up to several more years of maintenance bracing. Custom-fitted braces should be utilized due to the length of time a brace must be worn to be effective. The brace should also be created expressly to treat rib flare. Other braces won’t assist the rib flare and might even make it worse, including rib binders or pectus carinatum braces. Custom braces are available to treat both pectus carinatum and rib flare simultaneously in children with both disorders.

Stretches or physiotherapy exercises may help to strengthen the abdominal muscles in extremely mild occurrences of rib flare. Doing so can assist in training these muscles to maintain the proper posture of the lower ribs. This will lessen the flaring’s outward appearance but won’t alter the underlying rib structure or form like a brace does.

The most severe rib flare abnormality patients may also necessitate surgery. However, because it is typically highly invasive and has a lengthy recovery period, this is typically only used as a last resort.


Are you ready to take the first steps toward regaining your child’s confidence and health? Click here to get a free consultation with Dakota Brace today, as well as $75 off your first order. We make two brace types specifically for treating rib flare: a Custom Pectus & Two Rib Flare Brace (The Bison Brace), which is suited for patients with both pectus carinatum and rib flare, and a Custom Rib Flare Brace (The Rider Brace), which is designed for patients with only rib flare. Our experienced team can provide remote consultations, making it easier to fit into your schedule.


  1. Haleem, A., Hanif, M. S., Majeed, F. A., Wyne, A., & Rahim, K. (2015). Frequency of anomalies associated with chest deformity in physically fit male candidates reporting for military recruitment. PAFMJ, 65(2), 170-174.
  2. Haje, S. A., & Haje, D. P. (2006). Overcorrection during treatment of pectus deformities with DCC orthoses: experience in 17 cases. International Orthopaedics, 30(4), 262-267.

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