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Say Goodbye to Rib Pain: Effective Exercises for Costovertebral Joint Issues

Try out these 6 exercises if you are suffering from rib joint pain in your back.
Written by
Sean Hiller
Published on
Jun 11, 2024

Say Goodbye to Rib Pain: Effective Exercises for Costovertebral Joint Issues

Are you experiencing pain when you move your arm overhead, cough, sneeze, or even breathe deeply? You might be dealing with a rib joint contusion, also known as a costovertebral joint issue. This type of pain can be debilitating, but the good news is that there are exercises that can help you manage and overcome it.

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In this blog post, we will explore why this pain occurs and walk you through some effective exercises to alleviate it, based on the latest research and our experience at Vulcan Performance and Therapy. This post accompanies a video on our YouTube channel. Check it out below!

Understanding the Pain

My name is Dr. Sean Hiller, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. I've personally dealt with rib joint pain due to dynamic overhead movements, like split jerking. Many of my clients have reported similar issues from activities or even from sleeping in an awkward position. The pain usually manifests in the mid-back area and can radiate around the rib cage.

Essential Equipment

To get started with the exercises, you'll need the following equipment:

  • Foam roller
  • Moderate to heavy resistance band
  • Broomstick or dowel
  • Weights

Exercise 1: Foam Roller Taps

  1. Setup: Place a foam roller under your mid-back, directly under your shoulder blades. Lie in a supine position (on your back) with your knees bent and glutes off the ground.
  2. Execution: Cross your arms over your chest, drop your hips to tap the ground, then lift them back up. Perform 20 repetitions.
  3. Variation: For added intensity, extend your arms overhead and drop your hips while lowering your thumbs towards the ground.

Exercise 2: Overhead Press with Dowel

  1. Setup: Stay in the same position with the foam roller under your mid-back.
  2. Execution: Hold a dowel or broomstick, press it overhead, lock your elbows out, and then lower it back down. Perform 20 repetitions with a two-second tempo (two seconds up, two seconds down).

Exercise 3: Banded Pulldown Negatives

  1. Setup: Attach a resistance band to the top corner of a closed door.
  2. Execution: Sit at the base of the door, grip the band with both hands, and pull it down as far as possible. Hold the contraction for five seconds, then slowly release. Perform eight repetitions.

Exercise 4: Banded Horizontal Rows

  1. Setup: Keep the band attached to the door and grip it securely.
  2. Execution: Step back to create tension, then pull the band towards your side, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds and release. Perform ten repetitions.

Exercise 5: Weighted Windmills

  1. Setup: Stand with feet wide apart, holding a weight in one hand (on the affected side).
  2. Execution: Press the weight overhead, then rotate your torso and reach down with your free hand to touch your foot. If you can’t reach your foot, aim for your knee or thigh. Perform 12 repetitions on each side.

Exercise 6: Tempo Overhead Press

  1. Setup: Stand or sit with weights in both hands.
  2. Execution: Press the weights overhead with a three-second tempo, locking out your elbows. Lower them back down slowly with a three-second tempo. Perform 12 repetitions.

Additional Tips and Tools

For severe pain, consider using electrical stimulation (e-stim) to increase blood flow and muscle activation. Place the e-stim pads on the affected area as demonstrated in the accompanying video above.

Consistency is Key

To see the best results, perform these exercises twice a day. They are designed to be gentle yet effective in relieving rib joint pain and restoring mobility.


Dealing with costovertebral joint pain can be challenging, but with the right exercises and consistency, you can alleviate your symptoms and get back to your normal activities. If you found these exercises helpful, subscribe to our blog and our YouTube channel!

For those suspecting their pain might be neck-related, we have another set of exercises targeting neck issues that could also benefit your mid-back and rib pain. Check out our neck pain video for more information.

Stay active and pain-free with Vulcan Performance and Therapy!

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