Having pain under your right rib cage very often is a cause for concern because this may be a sign of a serious medical condition. Moreover, there are many vital organs such as the heart, liver, gall bladder, kidney, and lungs under your right rib cage.
Sometimes, the pain may be sharp and stabbing, feels like something is squeezing your chest. Many people assume that they are experiencing a heart attack. However, the pain in this location is not commonly heart-related. Most cardiac-related pains occur under your left rib cage.
The pain under your right rib cage can be mild or severe depending on the causes. A sudden and sharp pain around your rib cage indicates that an injury or muscle pull. It could also be related to the inflammation of your organs. If you have pain after eating, it may be related to digestive problems such as indigestion, heartburn or peptic ulcer. A pain that occurs when you breathe may be related to lung diseases such as pneumonia and pleurisy.
Some people may suffer from a dull pain under the right rib cage that comes and goes. This may be related to gall bladder stones or some issues with kidneys. This pain can also change steadily from mild to severe and radiate to your upper back. Although it is not life-threatening, you shouldn’t ignore it.
Experiencing pain means that there is something wrong, you shouldn’t just ignore it. You’d better get a thorough physical exam, which can help determine the exact reason. Finding the exact causes is very important, which can assist the doctor to develop a proper treatment plan. This article discusses 14 common causes of pain under your right rib cage.
14 Common Causes of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
There are different types of lung diseases that can cause pain under your right rib cage.
Pneumonia is a common cause of stabbing pain under the right rib when breathing. You may also feel headache, cough, fever, and chill. The common causes of pneumonia include fungal, bacterial, and viral infections. People who have been exposed to cigarette smoke for a long time are more likely to suffer from pneumonia.
Pleurisy is usually caused by the accumulation of fluid in the lungs tissues. This also means that the tissue layers of the lungs are inflamed. The common causes of Pleurisy are rheumatoid arthritis, rib fracture, and lung infections.
The chest pain caused by pleurisy may spread to other areas of your body such as right shoulder and back. You can feel chest pain when you cough or sneeze. The other symptoms include shortness of breath and tenderness in the area.
- Collapsed lung
A collapsed lung is also called pneumothorax. The space between the wall of the chest cavity and the lung fills up with air. This makes the whole lung or a portion of the lung collapse.
The common causes of a collapsed lung include smoking, trauma to the chest or drug abuse. People who suffer from a collapsed lung may also experience a dry cough. You may also feel like you are being stabbed in the chest area when you breathe.
- Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary Embolism occurs when one of the arteries going to the lungs becomes blocked. There are times when the blood clot may stem from the legs, but the pain will manifest underneath the rib cage. You may also suffer from shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
This is a serious bacterial disease that can spread through airborne droplets. Some tuberculosis patients have no symptoms, while others suffer from cough, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. This disease may also spread to the spine and brain. You can prevent this condition by taking vaccines.
- Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is another reason for pain around the rib cage. You may suffer from a constant cough, tiredness, fast weight loss and even coughing out blood. If you feel severe pain while breathing, your lungs may be infected. You should see your doctor to have an x-ray examination immediately.
- Kidney Stones
Kidney stone, also known as urolithiasis, is a common painful disease. Stones can form in your kidney due to salt and mineral deposits. Some small stones can be passed on together with urine, but some large stones may block the passageway. This will lead to kidney stones.
The pain caused by kidney stones may come and go in the lower back or lower abdomen. It may also spread to the groin area when the stones move through the urinary tract. You may feel severe and sharp pain when urinating. And the urine is usually pink or red.
This is an inflammation of the kidney due to urinary tract infection. It can cause frequent urination, fever, and severe pain under the ribs or around the groin area.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease
This condition happens when small fluid-filled sacs accumulate in the kidney. The sacs can also grow very large after a period of time. Polycystic Kidney Disease can cause a swollen abdomen, high blood pressure, and pain under your ribs.
3. Gallbladder Problems
The gallbladder is located in the upper right abdomen just under the liver and rib. Gallstones may form in the gallbladder because of the cholesterol build-up. You may feel sharp stabbing pains under your right rib cage when the stones move into its ducts.
The pain can also radiate to your right shoulder blades and back. Apart from the sharp pains, you may also have symptoms such as unspecific nausea, rapid heart rate, fever, and vomiting.
This pain can be very painful, and it is always hard to pass out urine. If a gallstone blocks the bile flow, you may feel intense and stabbing pain in the upper-right abdomen. The pain usually lasts for 15 minutes to 24 hours. Gallstone is a serious disease, you should see your doctor immediately.
- Gallbladder Cancer
This is malignant tumor-like liver cancer. Some people may have no symptoms, others may suffer from abdominal pain, itchiness, fever, and weight loss. Other symptoms of Gallbladder cancer include indigestion, nausea, vomiting, yellow skin and loss of appetite.
- Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy
This is a condition when the bile builds up in the liver due to the problems of bile ducts. This will damage the liver function and cause severe pain in the abdomen. This condition often occurs in pregnant women, so it is called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy.
Liver problems are common causes of pain under the right rib cage.
- Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis can be caused by too much alcohol and viral infections. You may feel fatigued, fever, weakness, and abdominal pain under the right rib cage.
- Liver Trauma
Severe external forces such as a car accident or surgery can damage the liver’s abdominal wall and cause liver trauma.
- Alcoholic Liver Disease
Long-term excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, leading to cirrhosis.
- Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver refers to a condition wherein the liver acquires fat from the rest of the body. Usually, people who are suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and hypertension tend to have this condition.
- Liver Abscess
This is a mass filled with pus in the liver. Some abdominal diseases such as appendicitis and diverticulitis can cause liver abscesses.
- Liver Cysts or Hepatic Cysts
They are often accidentally discovered during the abdominal imaging procedure. Liver cysts are usually asymptomatic, however, sometimes they will also cause pain under the right rib cage.
- Hepatic Arterial Occlusion
A block in blood flow to the liver can reduce oxygen to the liver tissue. This can cause pain under the right rib cage. Hepatic artery occlusion often occurs during chemotherapy.
- Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is a malignant tumor. The common symptom includes heavy pain in the abdomen, swelling, fever, brown urine and unexplained weight loss.
The most common cause of liver cancer is hepatitis, alcohol, or the spread of cancer in other parts of the body. Liver cancer is life-threatening. If you suspect the pain is related to liver cancer, you should consult your doctor immediately.
5. Gastrointestinal Problems
- Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers are an inflamed wound on the stomach lining or appear in the small intestine. It can cause burning pain under the ribs that come and goes. The other symptoms include acid reflux or even stomach bleeding.
Do not take drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen to cure stomach ulcers by yourself. These medications may worsen your condition, you need to see your doctor as soon as possible.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is very common nowadays, which is a group of symptoms such as abdominal pain and difficulty in bowel movements. Many studies show that it is related to stress and an unhealthy diet. Although the real reason for Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not known, its symptoms are clear.
The common symptoms include lower abdomen cramps, nausea, diarrhea, excess gas, constipation, chest tightness, bloating, heartburn and difficulty in swallowing. You may feel less pain when you move your bowels. Some natural remedies such as vera juice and lemon juice can help get rid of IBS.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is usually caused by inflammation of the digestive tract. For example, Crohn’s Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that some people get afflicted with.
The common symptoms of IBD include coughing, weight loss, heavy diarrhea, ulcers, flatulence, difficulty in swallowing, blood in the stools and pain under the ribs.
Colitis is another common inflammatory bowel disease. Young people tend to get this disease. This is mainly due to the bad eating habits of many young people.
The common symptoms of colitis include weight loss, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and severe abdominal pain. You can take anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain.
Diverticulitis is an inflammation or infection of the pouches in the colon. It can lead to fever, nausea and abdominal pain. You need to go to the hospital for medical treatment.
- Trapped Gas
When the body is having a hard time digesting food, your system will produce a lot of stomach acids and gas. Gas may be trapped in the digestive system and cause abdominal pain under your ribs. This pain is similar to the pain caused by appendicitis or gallstones.
Gas pain is usually caused by the regurgitation of food and the reflux of acid. Foods which is rich in carbohydrate, starch, and fiber are more likely to produce gas.
There are many natural home remedies for gas and bloating. For more information, you can read: 16 Best Ways to Get Rid of Gas and Bloating Fast
Osteochondritis is also known as chest wall pain. It refers to the inflammation or swelling of the muscles connecting the ribs and the sternum.
The pain caused by Osteochondritis is similar to the pain during a heart attack. Therefore, osteochondritis is often mistaken for cardiovascular disease. You can distinguish this condition from other symptoms such as abdomen pain, fatigue, fever, and difficulty in breathing.
The common causes of costochondritis include injury, fibromyalgia, respiratory diseases, arthritis, excessive coughing and infection after surgery. You can take anti-inflammatory drugs to treat Osteochondritis.
If you are suffering from a dull pain that becomes sharper after a period of time, appendicitis may be the culprit. The pain from appendicitis usually starts from the belly button and spread to the right abdomen below ribs. As the pain spreads, the pain also intensifies.
You may feel sharp and intense pain around the location of the appendix. This means that your appendix has become inflamed. The other symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fever, abdominal swelling, and vomiting all the time.
If you suffer from appendicitis, you should get medical attention immediately. When your appendix ruptures, this can be life-threatening.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation, infection or swelling of the pancreas. This can cause a sharp and intense pain under your right ribs. But sometimes the pain may be intermittent or even unnoticeable. This pain may also spread to the sides and back of your body. You may feel a bit relieved when you lean forward.
The other symptoms of Pancreatitis include fever, pale yellowish skin, nausea, vomiting, and swollen, tender abdomen. The stools may also become oily and smelly when you have chronic pancreatitis.
The common causes of pancreatitis include gallstones, drinking too much alcohol, organ injury and too heavy meals. It can be aggravated by eating fatty foods. Pancreatitis is a very serious disease, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible.
Injuries are the most common cause of pain under the ribs. This pain can be mild or severe. Muscle strain can be restored by adequate rest. Pain caused by severe injuries or fractures can make your movements difficult.
A rib cage injury can also lead to other serious problems such as pleurisy, collapsed lung. The injury may also damage the organs which are protected by your ribs such as liver, spleen or kidneys. In this situation, you will need an X-ray examination to determine how serious the injury is.
The right rib cage pain is a common symptom during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy. Your baby stretches in the uterus, causing the uterus to extend outward. When your baby pressures your ribs, you may feel a sharp pain and it will make your breathing difficult. If the baby pressures your stomach, you may suffer from stomach acid and indigestion.
In addition, pregnancy can dramatically change your body’s hormone levels. This can increase the size of your uterus and breasts, and cause pain in the ribs. However, you do not need to worry, these symptoms will disappear after the delivery.
11.Lactose Intolerance and Celiac Disease
- Lactose intolerance
This is a common gastrointestinal disease. It is caused by the lack of enzymes that digests lactose. You may feel nausea, bloating, cramps, gas, and diarrhea after eating lactose-containing foods.
- Celiac disease
This is similar to lactose intolerance and it is due to intolerant of gluten. You may feel bloating, cramps and diarrhea after eating wheat, rye, and barley, which may also cause osteoporosis and infertility.
You can take less milk and cereal to treat lactose intolerance and celiac disease. In addition, you can have it with other foods to slow down the digestive process.
This is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This virus can also cause chickenpox. Anyone who had chickenpox has the potential to develop shingles.
You may suffer from a stripe of blisters on the skin. It can also lead to pain in your ribs area. You can take some antiviral medications such as valacyclovir or acyclovir to reduce the pain.
The peritoneum is a membrane that covers the abdominal organs. Peritonitis is the inflammation of this sac. It can be caused by a burst appendix.
You may suffer from tenderness, fever, nausea, vomiting and severe pain. This condition is life-threatening. You need to get medical attention as soon as possible.
When to See a Doctor
If you are already having the problem below, you should seek medical treatment immediately.
- Sudden tightness pain under your breastbone.
- Dizziness or Nausea.
- The pain radiates to your left arm and back.
- Rapid breathing and heart rate.
- Very low blood pressure.
- Chills and Fever.