top of page


What is a rib lock?


The thoracic spine, which sits below the neck, is also called the thoracic spine and consists of twelve vertebrae. In these vertebrae, all twelve ribs of the body (also called costae, costa) also attach to each side of each vertebra. Together they form the most stable part of the back. The function of the ribs is to protect the internal organs, as well as to provide space for the lungs and facilitate breathing. The ribs also attach to the front of the chest. They then move a bit like bucket handles and widen the chest when they move up / out and compress as they move down / inwards. Between the ribs and around the attachment in each vertebra, there are muscles that help with this movement. Having good posture and mobility in the thoracic spine and ribs enables good breathing.

To control all muscles in the thoracic spine, good coordination / control is required. The name rib lock or rib crochet as it is also called, is a bit misleading. It is more about a spasmodic condition in the muscles around the ribs' attachment to the vertebra. It can occur, for example, in a sudden movement, sneezing, coughing or sometimes without a clear cause. It is suspected that the coordination was not involved in the movement and that the muscles then responded with a cramp to protect the area. The result is that the ribs in the area can not move properly in movement and breathing, with pain as a result.


Treatment of neck pain in Alta Vita


Symptoms of rib locking


Patients usually describe that they have pain in the thoracic spine / pain between the shoulder blades and that it can bite in the area in certain situations. It is common for there to be a constant pain that is provoked by deeper inhalation, certain movements or if you lie on the affected side. The pain may be local or extend along the rib towards the chest. A rib lock can sit on one or more levels, on one side or both sides, although it is most common that only one side is affected. It is easy to end up in a vicious circle where it hurts to deep breathe and move, which leads to the cramp getting worse, with increased pain as a result.

Treatment when hooking ribs


By asking us about the course of events for our patient and then conducting an examination, we can in most cases confidently come to the conclusion that this is precisely this diagnosis. If the posture is not optimal, then we go through the importance of it being optimized. Treatment has often  shock wave therapy  good effect on muscular cramps. In combination with this, manual treatment is performed in the form of mobilization and manipulation to restore / improve mobility in the area. An escalator  exercise rehabilitation  is also started to take advantage of the increased mobility and to optimize coordination in the area. We also check what the ergonomics look like when working at home and at the workplace.



The prognosis when hooking up one or more rib joints is very good. Often a clear improvement can be experienced already after a treatment. It is common, however, that some treatments are needed before the symptoms go away. This is a problem that often goes away on its own in one or two weeks. The treatment can definitely shorten the time with discomfort. Rehab training helps to minimize the recurrence of the problems.  

In cases where we do not have success with the treatment, it may be because there is osteoarthritis in the rib joint (costotransversal joint osteoarthritis). In these cases, the symptoms are sometimes very similar to those of a rib lock. There are also rheumatic diseases that in its infancy can give similar symptoms. Regardless, if we are not successful in treatment, we refer the patient to a doctor for further investigation, such as a plain X-ray, magnetic camera examination and any anti-inflammatory treatment.

Physiotherapy at Alta Vita Physiotherapy

bottom of page