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Sharp Pain under Right Rib Cage

Updated on October 3, 2013

The rib cage is made up of 12 pairs of ribs, the T-shaped sternum bone, and twelve thoracic vertebrae. It is very common to experience pain under the rib cage, and there are many reasons for this anomaly.

One of the primary causes of pain under rib cage is injury or fracture of the ribs. The pain can also be felt after direct trauma to the chest. Other causes of pain under rib cage include trauma to the walls or intercostal muscles that keep the ribs in their place, as well as injuries to the soft tissues. The pain can be experienced on the left or right side of the rib cage, and such pain can be very intense.

Discussed below are the varied causes, symptoms, and treatments for sharp pain under right rib cage.

Symptoms of sharp pain under right rib cage

A few common signs and symptoms that may occur along with sharp pain under right rib cage are as follows:

  • Pain in the chest area
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Breathing problems

Causes of sharp pain under right rib cage

Some of the common causes of sharp pain under right rib cage are listed below:

  • Ribs fracture:It is one of the most common causes of sharp pain under the rib cage. The ribs can injure or fracture due to an intense blow, crushing accidents, or falls. The rib cage pain can be severe or mild. Mild pain fades away on its own after some days. Severe pain that restricts body movements may require the intake of painkiller medications. If a part of the rib cage gets dislocated, then it can result in serious complications that include injuries to vital organs. Depending on the severity of pain under rib cage and the associated causes, the doctor may order for an x-ray of the chest to study the damage, if any. Doctors may also prescribe nerve block injections and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate severe pain. Patients are also advised to avoid physical activities that can aggravate the rib cage condition, as well as take lots of bed rest. Surgery may also be required in certain extreme cases.
  • Strain of the Intercostals:There are several muscle groups that are present in the rib region. These muscles are referred to as intercostal muscles. They play an important role in the process of respiration. When the intercostal muscles occurring on the right side of the ribs experience strain or stress, then it can result in sharp pain under right rib cage. Intercostal muscle strain that arises due to rapid twisting of the chest can additionally result in soreness of the region as well as breathing difficulties. NSAIDs, pain killers, and lots of rest is recommended by doctors.
  • Costochondritis:It is caused due to inflammation of the varied muscles as well as the cartilage that joins the breastbone to the rib cage. Hence, the pain associated with costochondritis typically affects the costosternal joints. Any kind of trauma or persistent injuries to the chest region can cause the cartilage and muscles to become inflamed. It may also be noted that swelling of the cartilage can also occur due to vigorous and chronic coughing that arises due to some underlying respiratory ailment. Such pain usually affects the left side of ribs. However, the sharp pain can occasionally migrate to the right side under rib cage. NSAIDs, pain killers are usually recommended by doctors. Steroids may be prescribed for severe instances of costochondritis.
  • Liver abnormalities: Although the liver is located in the abdomen, any kind of liver problem can result in sharp pain under right rib cage. Liver cancer, infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and B, damage to the liver, etc., are some of the common causes of liver anomalies.
  • Gallstones and other gallbladder diseases: The gallbladder is another organ located in the abdomen, just below the liver. It performs the function of storing bile which is essential for the varied digestive processes. Development of stone deposits known as gallstones can block the flow of bile and result in inflammation of the gallbladder. This can then result in sharp pain under right rib cage as well as abdominal pain. If medications do not resolve the gallbladder problems, then surgical removal of the organ is opted for.
  • Mesothelioma:It is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium which is a thin tissue cover that encloses varied body organs. In pleural mesothelioma the cancer affects the mesothelium that covers the lungs, and can result in sharp pain under right rib cage.
  • Other causes: Hernia, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, and other digestive problems can also lead to sharp pain under right rib cage.

Treatment of sharp pain under right rib cage

As discussed above, sharp pain under right rib cage can be caused due to a variety of reasons and health problems. It is therefore essential for all patients who experience pain under rib cage to consult a doctor for diagnosis and effective treatment.

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      Beticky 3 years ago

      I am also included in this, i has been treated long time ago by now its 4 years by now but the doctor they didt tell me where the problem its. but am hurting under my right rib, i used to go to sonar they told me there is nothing appear but even now am just paining too much.

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      Ryan 3 years ago

      I have a sharp pain under my right rib cage that is very painful when I run. It hurts when I'm not running too. I thought it might just be cramps, but it's happening every single time a run and I've never had cramps that often

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      rose 3 years ago

      had gallbladder surgery , but I am still having some sharp pain in right rib cage , that is the reason I had the surgery ,,,,I am puzzled it has been two weeks now , so will give it a bit more time and than call dr, again

    • jcressler profile image

      James E Cressler 3 years ago from Orlando, Florida

      I used to have those all the time as a young man. It was from hard physical activities and being out of shape. Walk along bent over with your knuckles dragging on the ground for 40 feet and it will go away (too much blood in the liver.)

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      chris 3 years ago

      Hey I had the same problem didn't know what it was. so I went to the docter and had a check for all these problems. The pain was due to a mustcle spasm due to Strain of the Intercostals. As you said on this website I was prescribed plenty of rest and food and water.