How Rare Is Having An Extra Rib?

With so many ribs in the body, you may have never thought there could be an extra. According to Healthline, the ribcage is made up of 12 ribs on the right and 12 ribs on the left. Each rib is symmetrically paired and connects with the spine. The purpose of the ribcage is to protect the heart and lungs from injury. The ribs play a role in breathing by helping to stabilize the chest as you inhale and exhale.

With 24 ribs supporting and protecting the body, why would there be an extra rib? A congenital defect, an abnormality present from birth, can involve the formation of an extra rib, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The extra rib is called a cervical rib because it grows off the cervical spine, the region of the spine that is in the neck. Most people with an extra rib don't realize that they have one until they have an x-ray for some other condition or injury.

Up to one percent of people have an extra rib

If you're wondering if you have a cervical rib, it is unlikely that you do. According to the book "Anatomy, Thorax, Cervical Rib" by Brian Fliegel and Ritesh Menezes, cervical ribs occur in 0.5 to one percent of the population. Cervical ribs often attach to the seventh cervical vertebra, and can form on one or both sides of the spine.

Having a cervical rib may lead to a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), according to the Mayo Clinic. The thoracic outlet is a space that is formed between the collar bone and the first rib. TOS occurs when the nerves and blood vessels that travel through the thoracic outlet are compressed. A cervical rib can crowd the thoracic outlet, leading to pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, per Cleveland Clinic. This can cause symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness of the arm, hand, or fingers.

According to Verywell Health, cervical ribs can go unnoticed and not cause any symptoms. If the extra rib does cause issues, usually physical therapy, pain medications, muscle relaxers, or steroid injections provide relief. If pain is persistent and symptoms are worsening, the cervical rib can be surgically removed.