Pain under the rib cage can cause discomfort of varying degrees. Most of the times, the pain may be a result of minor injuries or postural changes. However, sometimes, there may be an underlying medical situation that needs appropriate treatment.
There are numerous causes that can lead to pain under the right rib cage and it is important to understand them. Having some awareness about the possible causes, other associated symptoms and their relation to your pain, can help you in every way.
Medical assessment and examination is essential to help find the exact cause and to begin the right treatment plan for pain under right rib cage. However, it is important to be aware of the nature of your pain, the time when the pain occurs, its relation with movement, consumption of food or particular food items and other complaints accompanying the pain. These details can make the history taking simpler and help your physician in identifying the condition.
Causes Of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
The common causes can be grouped according to the affected body system.
Gastrointestinal Causes Of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
Gastrointestinal causes are the most common reasons for pain under the right side of the rib cage. Some of these include
- Acid Reflux and Ulcers Can Cause Pain Below Right Rib Cage- Regurgitation of food contents and reflux of acid into the food pipe can cause pain under the breastbone and the rib cage. There may be burning in the throat also in relation to eating food or when stomach remains empty for long. Peptic ulcers, particularly those affecting the duodenum, which is present on the right side, too can cause similar pain. These may require timely diagnosis and treatment to avoid further complications like perforation and abdominal bleeding.
- Liver Disorders Can Cause Pain Below Right Rib Cage- The liver is one of the vital organs located in the right side of the body below the rib cage. Conditions like inflammation of liver (hepatitis), enlargement of liver (hepatomegaly), liver cirrhosis, fatty liver or infections, toxins, drugs and alcohol affecting the liver can cause liver damage and pain in the right upper part of the abdomen. There may be sharp pain under right ribs and associated gastric complaints.
- Gall Bladder Diseases Can Cause Pain Below Right Rib Cage- Diseases of the gallbladder, which is located below the liver, can give rise to pain on the right side, especially beneath the ribs. Conditions like inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or gall stones (cholelithtiasis) can cause severe pain in the right upper part of the abdomen, under the right rib cage and may even radiate to the right shoulder. This is usually occurs after consumption of fatty food with bloating, nausea and sometimes vomiting.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disorder Can Cause Pain Below Right Rib Cage- Obstruction of the bowel or inflamemation of the gut can cause conditions like Crohn's Disease and may be evident after consumption of particular food items. There may be abdominal pain and discomfort under the right rib cage, vomiting and altered bowel movements.
- Appendicitis Can Cause Pain Below Right Rib Cage- In some cases, the appendix, which is a small extended part of the intestine on the right lower side of the abdomen, may get infected. This may cause inflammation and pain, which is more on the right lower side, however, sometimes even the upper area under the ribs may be painful. This needs immediate medical attention and treatment.
- Other gastric infections like typhoid and conditions like pancreatitis, hernia occurring in the upper part of the abdomen can cause pain under right rib cage.
Musculoskeletal Causes Of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
Other commonest reason for pain under right ribs includes disorders of the musculoskeletal system. These include conditions like
- Pain Below Right Rib Cage Due To Fractured Ribs- Ribs on the right side can get bruised or cracked during forceful activities or by injuries. The severity depends on the degree of fracture and need proper evaluation and management.
- Pain Below Right Rib Cage Due To Costochondritis- Sometimes, trauma or certain infections can cause inflammation of the cartilage joining the ribs leading to pain and tenderness. The pain may even radiate and may be felt on breathing.
- Pain Below Right Rib Cage Due To Osteoporosis- Disorders of the bone and joints can cause inflammation and pain under the ribs. Vitamin D deficiency or other factors causing brittle bones or osteoporosis too can lead to pain under right rib cage.
Other Causes For Pain Under Right Rib Cage Includes:
These include other reasons like injuries to the area under the right ribs or some other conditions like dietary factors, consumption of particular food items, imbalance of vitamins, build up of toxic ketone acids as in diabetic ketoacidosis, etc.
Diagnosis Of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
Diagnosis is made after thorough evaluation of medical history and clinical examination. Investigations may be ordered depending on the suspected condition. These may include, laboratory tests to study blood picture for infections, chemical analysis and other parameters. Imaging studies like X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be required to study bony structures, fractures, tumors or organ enlargement.
Treatment Of Pain Under Right Rib Cage
Treatment is based on the precise diagnosis and generally includes rest in case of physical injuries to the ribs, muscles or soft tissues to allow healing. Medications are given to control pain, fever, infections or gastrointestinal conditions depending on the cause. In some cases, additional treatments like surgery may be required.