MEDICAL ADVICE FROM

DR. ANN BEAUMONT


Q#1:  I am 26 years old and have very prominent, extremely flared ribs.  I  believe it is related to 'Pectus Excavatum', of which I may also have a mild case.  One of the only treatments I have found on the internet is surgery.  There also is a doctor in Brazil that has invented a brace, but he will not treat you unless you go to Brazil.   I was wondering if you thought a corset could help improve my rib deformities.  I am about 5' 8" and 128 lbs, but my waist is a 28" after having three children. Before I had children it was a 25".  --- Cherish Rock (11/8/02)

A:  Depending on the degree of Pectus Excavatum (PE), a corset may not be advisable. In true PE, the sternum, along with the rib attachments, is bent into the thoracic cavity, and restricts the space for the heart.  Exertion may cause cardiac problems.  Flared ribs however, without significant PE, can certainly be helped by some degree of corseting.  It would require longer adaptation or training depending on the degree of rib flaring, but there should be benefit.
If anything, it could help restore a more normal appearance of the ribcage.  I suggest you start slowly; the corset type should have sufficient boning to help support the ribcage.  I would advise against the lighter constructions for that reason.

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Q#2: My problem is that one of my ribs sticks out more than the others. It is the fourth floating rib from the bottom and I get sore wearing a corset. Unfortunately the corset is an off-the-rack affair and I plan to make one for my measurements soon. It is way too loose on the top and bottom creating an uneven stress on the corset and it does not support my back properly.
My main problem is the rib. It sticks out about an inch from the others, and using a corset causes a red spot and soreness, but not pain. Will the rib get in line with the others permanently if using a corset for a long period? I am a novice at corset wearing and can lace the 22 inch corset I have almost close, so I plan to make a 20 inch one. I do not plan to decrease my waist below 20 inches. I am 5'1" and 110 pounds and fairly petite. My waist uncorsetted is 26 inches. --- Tania (5/5/03)


A:  The "protruding rib" issue is one of many common variants of ribcage anatomy. The 4th rib from the bottom is attached by cartilage, which is actually what is protruding. The cartilage is semi-flexible, meaning that it will require time to form into a different shape. The sore spot can occur in at least two ways:  one (your case) being from the corset being loose and thus rubbing and irritating the skin in that location; the second being when the corset is made very tight around the ribcage and the high spot receiving more pressure than its surroundings.  Then, the underlining rib/cartilage will be what will be irritated.

Your reduction goals are reasonable, but you need to consider a corset that has a smooth line and a good fit over the ribcage such that loose bulging above the waist is avoided. The conflict is that the popular (off-the-rack) hourglass shape helps quick acclimatization as it does not really constrict the ribcage, but the downside is that, unless it is laced to provide sufficient tightness on top, the waist in that corset style then tends to be very tight and, with that, brings the risk of "rubbing" by being too loose on top. A style with a more funnel-shaped top will not have this issue, although it may not give the smallest waist circumference for the same overall tightness. However, what is most important, regardless of the style is having the correct measurements. This should ensure a smooth fit with distributed pressure.  With this style, your specific issue should be much less, and you can also consider adding a thin padding layer at the trouble spot. Having the bone casings outside will help as well.  Here is an example of this shape.

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Q#3: I am a 26 year old female, and my lower front 2 or 3  ribs protrude, causing my figure to look mal-shaped. 
I am 5'2'' and 112 lbs. and, other than this, I love my body.  I have read the responses to the questions posted regarding this condition (above) and I was wondering if you may speak  more about the options for treatment.  Would you recommend corsetting in my  case?  Which type of corset is more appropriate for re-aligning the  ribs?  How often would I need to wear this corset, and for how long before  I see a result?
 
 I am so glad that I found your website and see that other women have similar questions and concerns.  My ribs have been a source of anxiety for me since I was a teenager.  I am ready to begin addressing  these concerns and look  into treatment options.
 --- Ashley (4/05)

A: The rib protrusion is usually the effect of alternate cartilage growth of the false ribs.  Corseting can train the ribcage such that this would be less prominent, but as with training, it would take time. I would suggest a conventional training pattern where a funnel chest shaped corset (not an hourglass) is used to gradually bring in these ribs. Wear it as long as possible and only as tight as is comfortable. The degree of permanency is a function of how much time you
can spent in the corset. Also look at the section "permanency" in the series "Corseting the Human body".

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Q#4: I am a 29 yr old female who has a large protruding ribcage that often makes it impossible to wear closer fitting female clothing. In addition, my ribs are asymmetric -- one side sticks out farther and is shifted. I  have been checked for scoliosis and told my spine is straight. The physician I  saw was unable to give me an answer as to why my ribs were uneven and told me "not to worry about it." However, the way my ribs look makes me very self  conscious. Could a corset help make my figure  more feminine (shrink my waist and  ribs), and even my ribs > out? What would you recommend? --- Monica (11/22/05)

A: The lower ribs on some individuals do indeed flare out, without any underlying problems. Given your situation, I would expect you to benefit from corseting, especially since your current shape is making you self conscious. Depending on the style, more or less shaping of the lower ribcage is involved. I suggest to consider the shape you would prefer most and then follow a standard training process to get used to it and over time obtain the proportions you would like to have.

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Q#5:  I am 51 years old. The upper half of my ribcage on the right side sticks out further than the other  side. I can actually look down at my sternum, and the right hand side of my  chest, where the ribs attach to the sternum, is about 1/2 inch higher than the  left side. I am extremely flat-chested so this is very noticeable. When I stand  with my left-side facing the mirror, I can actually see the right-hand side of  my upper ribcage, and the actual breast, sticking out further than my left  side. Then, to make it worse, my lower left ribs protrude further out. I am very  athletic, and in extremely good, muscular shape. I also work on my posture and  know that I have now "twist"  to my torso. I also do not have scoliosis.  This imbalance is visible when I am lying flat on my back as  well. Can anything be done about this protrusion at the sternum level? --- June (12/21/05)

A: The the asymmetry you describe is often a matter of degree. Nearly all people have this to some level, it may just be more pronounced in your case. To make certain your spine is straight: test it by bending over and have someone look at your upper back area seen from the front and see if one side is higher than the other. If so, there may be scoliosis, and you should discuss your options with your physician. If not, the ribcage asymmetry can certainly be helped with corseting.  Ironically, scoliosis treatment in certain cases includes bracing, which is a form of corseting. The tightness
level is at the same level as for figure training with tightlacing, the intent for both being body modification.

Assuming for the moment that there is no scoliosis as you suggest, your ribcage can be modified with corset training. Keep in mind however that figure training can effectively  shape the ribcage from the 7th rib pairs down. There is an indirect effect on the upper ribs and sternum, which tend to be lifted and expanded as the lower chest and waist
become more constricted. In your case this may either improve or worsen the issue.

Because of this, I would recommend to consider a custom measured over-the-bust corset. I would advise against an hourglass style as this would not significantly train your lower ribcage. Although straight-line chest models, or funnel-shaped chest styles are more challenging to get used to, because of the added ribcage constriction I would expect they would have the most potential to  improve your situation.

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