It is true that a plaster cast or splint cannot be applied to a broken rib the way other fractures may be treated. But that doesnt mean that there is nothing that can be done for broken ribs.
For any fracture, its important to relieve your pain relief. To do this, you can either try acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol), or other analgesic medicines (including ibuprofen or codeine-type medicines). Its also important to make sure that nothing more serious happened, such as bleeding that squeezes nerves or blood vessels.
There are no reliable ways to speed healing of a fractured bone. But doctors generally recommend good nutrition and avoiding re-injury. If the fracture followed a rather minor injury, your doctor may think its appropriate to evaluate you for osteoporosis or other bone disease. Effective therapy for osteoporosis and prevention of trauma may prevent future fractures.
For rib fractures, the surrounding bones and muscles generally hold the bones together well enough that over time healing happens and pain goes away. Some fractures, on the other hand, involve one or more fragments that are far enough from each other to prevent prompt healing.
Rarely, a broken rib can injure the lung. A punctured lung, or pneumothorax, in which part of the lung collapses and air enters the space around the lung, may cause severe pain and shortness of breath. Occasionally, fluid or air collects outside the lung and squeezes the lung. This also can cause shortness of breath. For these reasons, if your pain is severe and breathing is affected, you should see your doctor for a re-evaluation right away.