There are twenty four ribs in the typical human rib cage. The number of ribs in a non-human rib cage varies according to overall size of the organism. Ribs are strong but thin bones which are more easily bruised than broken.
A rib may be broken as result of a collision between the abdomen and an object. This collision must occur with a sufficent vector of force. The other object may be another creature or something inanimate or a stationary object, such as a tree or a wall. In the latter case, the person with the broken rib would be catapulted by an outside force. Alternately, a rib may become broken by overzealous tightening of a corset.
The most common diagnosis of the broken rib is a simple hairline fracture. Getting an x-ray is standard operating procedure in most medical facilities, so your doctor will be able to determine whether or not your bruised rib is in fact broken.
Treating a hairline fracture along the rib cage is much the same as treating a bruised rib.
Smoking increases the length of time necessary to heal any broken bone by nature of decreasing the available oxygen in the blood. In the case of rib damage, smoking will cause sharp pain along the rib cage. Same goes with laughing, coughing, and deep breathing. Sleeping alone on the back is advisable, maybe with an extra pillow or two. Depending upon the severity and number of broken ribs, it may be necessary to sleep on a couch or cot to prevent rolling onto the side.
If the ribs are badly broken, lung damage will occur. Or, worse, the skin will rupture. In either case of a badly broken rib, a prolonged stay in a rehabilitative facility of some sort would be preferable after the ICU. Or at the very least, a period of being excused from work.
If multiple ribs are broken, then the condition is known as flail chest—usually resulting from severe trauma such as a car crash. In which case the patient's rib cage moves during normal breathing, causing great pain.
If you are not able to (or choose not to) seek out professional medical attention, neither decoy hunches nor Everything2 may be held liable. The information provided here is strictly for entertainment purposes and should not replace the attentions of a fully licensed medical practitioner.