5 Possible Causes of Pain in Your Ribs (And What to Do About It)

possible causes of pain in your ribs reasons rib pains

Experiencing pain in your ribs is surprisingly common because most cases aren't serious. They usually clear up on their own without medical treatment.

At the same time, this pain isn't something to ignore, particularly if the pain is severe or prolonged. Because although it can come from something as minor as a bruised rib, the causes of rib pain can be as serious as lung cancer (in rare cases).

Are you feeling pain in your ribs that's sharp? Maybe it's a dull ache. Here are five conditions that could be the cause.


1. Costochondritis

Does the pain in your ribs stay in your upper rib cage and grow worse when you touch it? It may be the result of a common condition called costochondritis (or Tietze's syndrome).

Costochondritis occurs when the cartilage holding your ribs together at the sternum becomes inflamed.

In some cases, costochondritis goes away on its own. However, your doctor may require more tests to identify the root cause.


2. Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism occurs when there's a block in one of the arteries feeding your lungs. In many cases, the block is a clot that began as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in your leg.

In addition to rib cage pain, you might experience:


  • Coughing
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irregular heartbeat

If you experience these symptoms with rib cage pain, you should see a doctor right away or go to the emergency room.


3. Intercostal Neuralgia

Intercostal neuralgia is pain that feels like its wrapping around your chest from the back almost like a band. It can feel sharp, but it also feel like a burning or aching pain. Some people find it grows worse when they make sudden movements, like when they take a deep breath or cough.

The cause is irritation of your intercostal nerves, which can be the result of injuries or of compression to the nerves. When your nerves become inflamed, they create the pain.


4. Pleurisy

Pleurisy occurs when the lining of your lungs and inner chest wall become inflamed or when fluid accumulates between the layers (pleural effusion). If you experience pleurisy, then you will find you have rib cage pain and trouble breathing.

The condition is serious because the inflammation is usually the result of an infection, like pneumonia.


5. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that leaves those affected feeling pain throughout their bodies. It occurs mostly in women and only affects between 2-4 percent of all people.

Although fibromyalgia pain can occur anywhere, non-specific chest pain (like rib cage pain) is a very common symptom. Rib pains also tend to be the symptom most likely to send a patient to the emergency room.


Are You Suffering from Pain in Your Ribs?

You can suffer from pain in your ribs because you're winded or injured, but prolonged and severe rib pain may be related to another condition.

If you have pain in your rib cage or lungs and it doesn't go away, you should tell your doctor quickly, particularly if you have a history of blood clots.

Did you find this article on rib pains helpful? Check out our Frugal Fitness and Healthcare archives for more great content on staying healthy.