Pain under the right rib cage can be minor or severe depending on the cause, and sharp pain under the right rib cage can be frightening. If you experience pain on the right under the rib cage, there could be a simple explanation such as an injury. It could also be related to a serious medical issue.
There are many vital organs protected by the right rib cage, so you shouldn’t ignore the pain. Getting a thorough physical exam is important to help determine the exact cause. Understanding pain right under the rib cage can give you a sense of relief as opposed to panic. For example, some people may simply be experiencing pain under the right rib cage due to postural changes. When some people have pain on the right side under the rib cage, they fear they are having a heart attack. While this is not entirely out of the question, it is rare that pain in this location is heart-related.
Being aware of the type of pain, when the pain occurs, and whether the pain is associated with movement, eating, or a certain food item can assist the doctor during their assessment and might help identify the cause.
Pain under the right side of the rib cage can feel like an aching, stabbing, or burning sensation. Some individuals have described it as feeling like something is squeezing their chest, while others say they experience a sharp pain under the right rib cage when breathing in. While not all pain under the right rib cage is life-threatening, it is a good idea to get it checked out, especially if it just won’t go away.
The cause of pain under the right rib cage can be the same as pain on the left. Many people jump to conclusions based on where the pain is situated, but they could be way off base. Here we look at the many different causes of pain under the right rib cage.
Injury: Injuries to the ribs are common and can cause chest pain. This pain can be mild or severe depending on the extent of the injury. Some injuries to the rib cage can lead to serious problems such as a collapsed lung or kidney damage.
Appendicitis: The appendix is a part of the intestine on the right lower side of the abdomen. If it becomes infected and inflamed, it can cause right side pain.
Tuberculosis: The dangerous bacterial infection known as tuberculosis is contagious and can spread to the spine and brain. In the 20th century, TB was a leading cause of death in the United States. Thankfully, there is a cure for TB.
Peritonitis: The peritoneum is a double-layered sac that houses most of our abdominal organs. Inflammation of this sac is dubbed peritonitis.
Shingles: An infection of nerve and skin surface caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has recovered from a case of chickenpox has the potential to get shingles.
Pancreatitis: Inflammation and infection of the pancreas can result in pancreatitis which will signal itself as pain under your right rib. This pain may also travel to your back. Other symptoms include yellowish skin, increased heart rate, and vomiting.
Musculoskeletal problems: Osteoporosis or costochondritis, which is inflammation of the costal cartilage, has been linked to pain under the right rib cage. The costal cartilage is a structure connecting each rib to the sternum at the costosternal joint.
Intercostal muscle strain: The intercostal muscles are those that connect the ribs. If you strain the intercostal muscles on your right side, this can lead to pain. When these muscles become strained, it is quite noticeable because the muscles appear inflamed and very painful. Relaxation and medication can help reduce intercostal muscle strain.
As you can tell, diagnosis is not always quick. In some cases, it can take a detailed investigation for doctors to pinpoint exactly what is leading to the pain right under the rib cage. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment may include rest and specific medications to control the pain.
If you have experienced pain under the right rib cage due to an injury, rest will be vital to ensure muscles and soft tissues can heal. When it comes to medications, depending on the cause, you may receive prescriptions to address pain, fever, infections, or gastrointestinal conditions. There are situations where medications and rest are not enough and additional measures, such as surgery, are required.
After you get a physical and your medical history is taken, laboratory tests, chemical analysis, and imaging studies may be done to help view structures, fractures, organ enlargement, or tumors.
Some people will experience pain under the right rib cage that doesn’t last very long and is probably food related. Adjusting your diet ensures this doesn’t happen again. There are, of course, those who have recurring, constant, or severe pain under the right rib cage. If you have sudden, unexplained pain, you should see a doctor.
Most physicians agree that if pain under the right rib cage radiates to the left arm, back, or jaw, is accompanied by rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, a squeezing or tightness feeling, nausea, fever, chills, dizziness, or very low blood pressure, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Since our rib cage keeps many of our internal organs safe, there is a tendency to worry when we experience pain in this location. In the vast majority of cases, pain under the right rib cage is related to an injury or lifestyle factor, such as eating spicy and greasy foods. Just be sure to visit your physician if you think it’s serious.