Pain in the ribs causes chest wall pain and can be very disabling for the person having it. People don't give much importance to these long bones and only become aware of their existence when they experience pain in them!
Human beings have 24 ribs in the body; and any trauma, injury or disease in any of them can cause discomfort and pain which can lead to difficulty in daily functioning. Ribs serve an important purpose by supporting the human skeleton and protecting many vital organs and systems within it. Rib pain can be of varying degrees, can be mild or severe, can be achy or sharp etc. There are many causes for rib pain and depending on the cause, the treatment is done.
We have endeavoured to cover on the various causes, symptoms, investigations and treatment for rib pain. Below is a brief synopsis of the various topics covered in our Rib Pain Information Center. For more detailed information on this much ignored condition, please refer to our side menu under our RIB PAIN INFORMATION CENTER where we have also included exercises along with all the relevant information in great detail.
Pain or discomfort in the ribs is rib pain. Ribs are the long bones which form the ribcage. There are 24 ribs present in the human body. The ribcage helps in supporting the entire skeleton and also in protecting the thoracic cavity and its contents, such as lungs and heart. Anyone can suffer from rib pain at any age. It can be of varying degrees and type, such as the pain could be tearing, stabbing or aching pain. Rib pain should never be ignored, as it can be a symptom of various medical conditions, mild and serious.
Classification and Types of Rib Pain
- Joint Pain.
- Traumatic Rib Pain.
- Nerve Pain.
- Organ Pain.
Different Causes of Rib Pain
- Musculoskeletal Causes (Costochondritis, Fibromyalgia, MS etc.).
- Lung Related Causes (Asthma, Bronchitis, Flail chest, Pleural effusion etc.).
- Cardiovascular Causes (aortic dissection, CHF, congenital cardiac abnormalities, heart attack).
- Malignant Causes (Bone cancer, Lung cancer, Multiple myeloma etc.).
Common Accompanying Symptoms with Rib Pain
- Abdominal pain.
- Pain upon twisting or bending the upper body.
- Restricted movements of shoulders or back.
Serious Symptoms accompanying Rib Pain
- Chest pain upon breathing or coughing.
- Radiating chest pain into the left arm, jaw, shoulder or back.
- Chest tightness or pressure.
- Cold and clammy skin.
- Change in mental status.
- Coughing up mucus.
- High fever.
- Acute abdominal pain.
Common Tests For Finding the Cause of Rib Pain
- Physical examination.
- Blood tests.
- Chest x-ray.
- CT scan.
- Sputum cytology.
- Bone scan.
Treatment for Rib Pain consists of conservative treatment, such as RICE therapy, NSAIDs or pain meds, compression bandage, exercises, hot/cold compresses and sometimes surgery for severe cases.
For more detailed information on Rib Pain including its Classification, Types, Pathophysiology, Causes, Signs, Symptoms, Tests and Treatment, Please refer to the side menu under our RIB PAIN INFORMATION CENTER.
Bruises to the ribs can be very painful and cause chest wall pain. They are commonly experienced during contact sports, such as wrestling, basketball, football, and ice-skating etc. Causes include: sports injuries, direct impact, automobile, work and domestic accidents. Some medical conditions which cause bruised ribs include severe coughing, such as seen with whooping cough, pneumonia and bronchitis. Osteoporosis is another medical condition which can result in rib bruising. Symptoms of bruised ribs consist of pain and tenderness to touch over the bruised ribs, acute pain upon breathing, shortness of breath, limited movements of the chest wall, skin discoloration, and difficulty in lying on the injured site. Treatment consists of conservative treatment, such as rest, breathing exercises, ice applications and pain meds (NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, opioids).
For more detailed information on this topic, please refer to the side menu under our RIB PAIN INFORMATION CENTER where we have given lots of information including exercises for alleviating rib pain.
Sprain of the intercostal muscles can cause quite a disabling pain. Causes for this condition include: sudden or forceful twist to the chest region, forceful stretching of the upper body or direct injury to the chest wall. Symptoms consist of abrupt and severe pain over the sprained muscles, swelling, shortness of breath, stiffness of the chest wall, tenderness to touch, pain with coughing, breathing, sneezing etc.
Treatment may not be required as this condition can resolve over a few days. Conservative treatment comprises of rest, ice application, mild stretching exercises, medicines for pain and inflammation, and interventional therapy such as Intercostal Nerve Block (INB).
Osteochondritis or Osteochondritis Dissecans is a medical condition occurring as a result of deficient blood supply causing necrosis of the cartilage which lines the joint. This condition causes chest wall pain.
Causes of osteochondritis are: Contact sports, automobile accidents, work injuries and genes. Symptoms comprise of rib pain or chest wall pain, shortness of breath, tenderness to touch and swelling at the costochondral junction. Diagnosis can be made by physical examination, chest and rib x-ray, CT scan and MRI. Treatment consists of rest, immobilization or limiting the chest movements, NSAIDs and physical therapy.
For a more detailed read, please look under our RIB PAIN INFORMATION CENTER on the side menu.
Any injury to the ribs or the cartilages causes its fracture. Causes include: Sports injury, work injury, road accidents, falls, direct trauma to the chest and forceful coughing. Symptoms are intense pain at the site of injury, acute pain with movement, breathing, coughing, sneezing; audible crepitus upon palpation, muscle spasms, breathing problems and deformity of the ribcage. Diagnosis is confirmed with chest x-ray, CT scan, MRI scan and bone scan. Treatment comprises of rest, local ice application, pain medications, physical therapy and interventional pain therapy.
For more detailed information, please refer to the side menu under our Rib Pain Information Center.
Fracture of the rib is a break occurring in one or more parts of the rib. Causes include: Direct trauma, motor vehicle accidents, osteoporosis may cause fracture of the rib upon coughing. Symptoms of rib fracture are: Pain in the ribs, pain upon breathing, pain upon palpation, shortness of breath, anxiety, headaches, drowsiness and dizziness. Treatment done comprises of conservative approach and surgery. Rib fractures which are non-displaced can heal on their own. Conservative treatment includes rest, ice application, pain meds (NSAIDs, opioids). Surgery is done in severe cases.