Rib cage pain is a common complaint that can have many causes, ranging from a fractured rib to lung cancer. The pain may be sudden and sharp or dull and aching.
Many cases of rib cage pain are not linked to serious conditions and resolve on their own or with minimal treatment. Others, however, are medical emergencies requiring immediate intervention.
There are many possible causes of rib cage pain. A doctor will diagnose the underlying cause by a physical examination and imaging scans.
Common reasons for rib cage pain include:
Injury to the chest from falls, traffic collisions, and sports-related contact is the
Costochondritis, or Tietze’s syndrome, is another common cause of rib cage pain.
Rib cage pain due to costochondritis ranges from mild to severe. Symptoms include tenderness and pain when touching the chest area. Severe cases can lead to pain that radiates down the limbs, or pain that interferes with daily life.
Some cases of costochondritis resolve without treatment, while others require medical intervention.
The pain may be caused by the infection itself, a pulled rib muscle from coughing, or by pleurisy. Pleurisy occurs when the pleura, tissue between the lungs and the rib cage, becomes inflamed.
Other causes of pleurisy include autoimmune disorders and certain medications.
4. Lung cancer
One of the
The outlook for lung cancer is poorer than other forms of cancer, and is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. People with early-stage lung cancer have a better chance of being cured, highlighting the importance of early intervention.
Metastatic lung cancer, or cancer that begins in one area and spreads to the lungs, is a life-threatening condition. It will also cause pain in the rib cage or chest.
This is a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the body. Fibromyalgia is estimated by the American College of Rheumatology to affect between 2-4 percent of people and is
The pain associated with fibromyalgia may be burning, throbbing, stabbing, or aching. These pains are commonly felt in the rib cage, although any part of the body can be affected.
6. Pulmonary embolism
As well as rib cage pain, PE can cause the following symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- rapid breathing
- coughing, including coughing up blood
- irregular heartbeat
PE is a serious condition that can damage the lungs and other organs due to reduced oxygen in the blood. Anyone who experiences the symptoms of PE should see a doctor.
According to the American Lung Association, 10-30% of people who develop PE will die within 1 month of diagnosis. Fortunately, a quick diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications.
The rib cage consists of
The ribs are attached to the breastbone, which is the long bone that runs down the center of the chest. They are attached at the front, by cartilage, which is a firm yet flexible tissue. At the back, they are attached to the spine.
The liver is located at the lower end of the rib cage on the right and the spleen is on the left. Both are given some protection by the rib bones. The gallbladder and kidneys lie just below the rib cage.
If any of the components of the rib cage, including the bones or cartilage or the organs nearby, are affected by injury or illness, a person will have pain in or near the rib cage.
Rib cage pain may occur in the chest, below the ribs, or above the navel. As there are several different causes of rib cage pain, the symptoms can vary. As a result, the pain may be:
- slow to develop
- worse when breathing in or moving
Other symptoms affecting the rib cage can include:
- difficulty breathing
Rib cage pain can be attributed to many underlying injuries or medical conditions. A person should always consult a doctor in any case of unexplained rib cage pain.
Below are some commonly asked questions about rib cage pain.
Why is the right side of my rib cage hurting?
There are many potential reasons why the right side of a person’s rib cage is hurting. Typically, this is due to
What organ is under the rib cage on the right side?
The pancreas, right kidney, gallbladder, liver, and intestines are organs found on the right side of the ribs.
How do I know if my right side pain is serious?
According to the NHS, a rib injury that is accompanied by shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or coughing up blood or green mucus may point to something serious. People with these symptoms should seek medical attention.
There are several possible causes of rib cage pain, many of which are not linked to serious conditions and resolve on their own.
However, other cases may require medical treatment and long-term care.
The cause of the rib pain may be a disease or condition not included in the list above. It helps to be vigilant for other symptoms that accompany the rib cage pain and to report these to a doctor.