Pain Under Rib Cage (Right, Left)

What is pain under rib cage?

The key part of our body’s respiratory system is rib cage as it guards important organs such as lungs, kidneys, stomach, and heart.

Pain under the ribs has become common for many people in their lifetime. Pain under the rib cage can be caused due to a number of reasons such as inflammation, digestion issues, kidney stones, panic attack, or even an injury. It is suggested that individuals do not ignore pain under the ribs because it can be a symptom of serious issues such as cancer or heart attack.

Why there is pain under rib cage?

Usually, pain under rib cage can be a minor health issue such as indigestion or muscle pain which is minor. But for individuals where the pain is chronic and continuous along with stabbing sensations and other signs can lead to serious health issue such as liver infection too. Hence it is advised to visit the doctor for pain under the rib cage.

Causes of pain under rib cage and risk factors

  • Strained muscle: rib cage pain can be caused due to strained muscle present anywhere in the Torso. At the time of exercise when there is no warm up or cool down, there is enhanced risk of pulling muscles. This category of pain is also mentioned as stitch.
  • Indigestion: the left side of the rib cage usually experiences pain at times of indigestion. A digestive problem can be noticed when there is a pain in rib cage after an unusually large meal or an immediate onset of pain. This type of pain usually gets relieved in short time mainly due to burping.
  • Gastritis: the left side of the rib cage experiences a pain due to gastritis which is a gastrointestinal disorder. When the lining of the stomach is affected by bacterial infection pain occurs. The digestive system is affected and inflammation is triggered. The rib cage pain is usually accompanied by vomiting.
  • Appendicitis: though a common condition, appendicitis also required medical attention. The right side of the rib cage is usually felt with severe pain for people who experience appendicitis. Usually, for such patients, an appendectomy is done, for the removal of appendix before it bursts.
  • Pancreatitis: the pain associated with pancreas spread the pain to the mid-torso.
  • Gallbladder issues: pain below rib cage can be due to gallbladder issues. This happens due to gallstones in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is also overburden due to a large meal especially when it has high-fat content.
  • Liver issues: Liver infection or issues with the functioning of the liver can also be a reason for rib cage pain.
  • Intestinal tract issues: rib cage pain is also caused due to heavy gas in the system. Another reason for pain to be triggered is due to infection present in the intestinal tract or if the individual has IBS, IBD, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Backbone sickness: when the individual possesses an infection in the spinal or injury in the backbone, there may be rib cage pain. The pain has the capacity to spread throughout the body.
  • Costochondritis: the cartridges present in the rib cage link the breastbone and the ribs. The left side of the rib cage has pain when experiencing Costochondritis and is developed as the cartridges are infected. This leads to acute pain mainly at times of deep inhalations.
  • Heart attack: back, chest and upper body are the places where pain occurs for a heart attack. Apart from these symptoms, the pain can radiate to the rib cage and hence rib cage pain can also be considered as a symptom of heart attack. When the pain isn’t subsided and is sharp, then the individual requires immediate medical attention.
  • Lung problem: pneumonia, fluid accumulation or punctured lung can also lead to pain under the left rib cage. Along with these issues, there can be difficulty in breathing too.

How is the pain under rib cage diagnosed?

The individual can visit the doctor and mention the type of pain and the movements which enhance the pain. The category of pain and the area in which the pain occurs can help the doctor determine the type of test.

Diagnosis through X-ray or MRI scans

For individuals who experience pain under rib cage after an injury, an X-ray would be prescribed. With the help of an X-ray, the abnormalities and fractures in the bones are identified. Suppose the X-ray shows certain abnormalities such as abnormal growth, then the individual would be suggested for an MRI scan. A detailed vision of the rib cage can be experienced with MRI scan along with neighboring tissues, muscles, and organs.

Diagnosis through bone scan

For individuals who experience a chronic pain, then a bone scan may be suggested. A bone scan is advised in case the doctors suspect for bone cancer which may be the reason for pain. For cancer detection in the bones, the doctor would inject the individual with a small amount of radioactive dye called tracer. A special camera is then utilized and the body is scanned for the tracer. From this, any abnormalities in the bone can be identified.

Pain Under Rib Cage Treatment Options

Treatment with Anti-inflammatory drugs

The treatment option for rib cage varies depending upon the pain. For minor injuries such as a bruise or pulled muscle cold compress can be used in the area of pain so that swelling can be reduced. For major pain, the doctor would prescribe over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen. For pain due to inflammatory diseases, anti-inflammatory drugs can help in relieving pain. For example ibuprofen, this not only relieves pain but also cure the inflammatory process.

Treatment by means of Compression wrap

If over-the-counter doesn’t relieve pain, then the doctor would suggest for a compression wrap. The elastic, large band is used to compress across the chest. The chest is held in a tight manner with compression wrap so that further pain and injury is avoided.

Treatment by Diet change

The various pains which affect the quality of life can be overcome with diet change. For pain under rib cage is associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), intestinal inflammation and Crohn’s disease, change in diet can give good results. A change in diet would cure many symptoms and is a positive way of living too.

Treatment through Surgery

For certain serious situations medications, change in diet may not work and hence they need to go for surgery. For a severe injury to the chest, gallstones, fractured bones require surgery and this helps to relieve symptoms.

Apart from these, there are other ways to relieve and cure the patient of pain under the rib cage. They are injections which can be steroidal, an anesthetic which lets swelling down, fixing improper posture, soft tissue therapy such as massaging, home exercises, yoga, stretching, therapy machines, mild yoga exercises, and spinal manipulation.

Pain under rib cage can be a discomfort for individuals in their day to day activities. Mostly the pain could be due to posture changes or minor injuries. It is always suggested to seek medical attention for any pain and take action to relieve pain.


Last updated on February 22nd, 2018 at 11:19 am

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