Good evening Beth,
Well, theoretically it is possible that your aunt broke her rib because she sounds so frail plus has osteoporosis but, of course, the only way of knowing for sure is to do an x-ray.
Now, do I think it is necessary to do an x-ray? The answer is no, I dont think she really needs to have it done because even if there is a broken rib vs. sprained cartilage vs. pulled muscle (these are additional possibilities), the treatment would be the same and includes pain management with pain medications.
Certain symptoms can kind of give you an idea if there is a broken rib such as if she has more pain when she coughs or sneezes or turns. She would probably moan with pain while attempting to turn or after sneezing/coughing. But again, there is no special treatment for a cracked rib. If you do notice that she is in more pain, call her doctor and ask for some pain medications. Also, try putting a pillow under her arm, kind of around her ribcage. This will minimize how much her chest wall moves and will help with pain during movements.
Please let me know if you have other questions. I will be on the computer for a bit longer and then again tomorrow.
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Well, those are good signs. Chances that she broke her rib and has no pain with feeling around that area or no pain upon moving are very small. Usually there is significant amount of pain present. There is also a possibility that the pain can come on gradually over the next week or so, but it is unlikely. Just watch her for any signs of discomfort or bruising in that area. If no changes in the next week, we can say with good certainty that there is no fracture.
It is possible that the cartilage simply moved under your hand making that noise. Because she is so thin and has no fat padding, you were able to hear/feel the crack. Cartilage cannot crack with such light pressure as it is rather soft tissue but ribs can since they are bone. So it is possible that due to the pressure onto her thin frame, her rib slipped in your hand causing the immediate pain (thus moan) and the noise you heard.
I honestly wouldn't worry about it unless she starts to become more uncomfortable, if she begins to moan with every movement, etc. What you can do today is put an ice pack on the area for about 10 minutes (wrap ice pack in paper towel and put paper towel against the skin). Ice will decrease any kind of inflammation and may help in the long run.
Sorry Beth, I was already off the computer last night when I got your email and this morning have been swamped at work.
Cartilage did not crack or break, that's correct. Of course, it is possible to break a cartilage (for example, nose is composed of cartilage and people can break noses in fights but that's a lot of force that needs to be applied).
What I meant by rib slipping is more like a knee that cracks when one stands up or your finger joints can crack when they are bent. I probably didn't use the right word - slip - so it got you worried.
Really, I can reassure you, there is nothing to worry about. As of last night your aunt was comfortable and not in pain so you did not do any unintended damage to her.
Sorry to confuse you. Let me know if you have any other questions.