The ribs are thin, flat, curved bones that form a protective cage around the organs in the upper body. They are comprised 24 bones arranged in 12 pairs.
These bones are divided into three categories:
The first seven bones are called the true ribs. These bones are connected to the spine (the backbone) in back. In the front, the true ribs are connected directly to the breastbone or sternum by a strips of cartilage called the costal cartilage.
The next three pairs of bones are called false ribs. These bones are slightly shorter than the true ribs and are connected to the spine in back. However, instead of being attached directly to the sternum in front, the false ribs are attached to the lowest true rib.
The last two sets of rib bones are called floating ribs. Floating ribs are smaller than both the true ribs and the false ribs. They are attached to the spine at the back, but are not connected to anything in the front.
The ribs form a kind of cage the encloses the upper body. They give the chest its familiar shape.
The ribs serve several important purposes. They protect the heart and lungs from injuries and shocks that might damage them. Ribs also protect parts of the stomach, spleen, and kidneys. The ribs help you to breathe. As you inhale, the muscles in between the ribs lift the rib cage up, allowing the lungs to expand. When you exhale, the rib cage moves down again, squeezing the air out of your lungs.