Rib Facts

  • The ribs are the thin, flattish bones that curve around your chest.
  • Together, the rib bones make up the rib cage.
  • The rib cage protects the backbone and breastbone, as well as your vital organs – heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, spleen and so on.
  • You have 12 pairs of ribs altogether.
  • Seven pairs are called true ribs. Each rib is attached to the breastbone in front and curves around to join on to one of the vertebrae that make up the backbone via a strip of costal cartilage.
  • There are three pairs of false ribs. These are attached to vertebrae but are not linked to the breastbone. Instead, each rib is attached to the rib above it by cartilage.
  • There are two pairs of floating ribs. These are attached only to the vertebrae of the backbone.
  • The gaps between the ribs are called intercostal spaces, and they contain thin sheets of muscle which expand and relax the chest during breathing.
  • Flail chest is when many ribs are broken (often in a car accident) and the lungs heave the chest in and out.