Rib cage pain

Alternative names
Pain - rib cage

Rib cage pain includes any pain or discomfort in the area of the ribs. See also Chest pain .

With a broken rib, the pain is aggravated by bending and twisting the torso. With pleurisy (swelling of the lining of the lungs), it is not.

Common Causes

  • Bruised, cracked, or fractured rib  
  • Costochondritis (inflammation of cartilage near the breastbone)  
  • Osteoporosis (mostly in women)  
  • Pleurisy (the pain is worse when breathing deeply)

Home Care

Rest and immobilization are the best cure for a rib cage fracture.

Follow your health care provider’s instructions for treatment of the cause of rib cage pain.

Call your health care provider if

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if the pain is persistent, prolonged, or unexplained.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

The health care provider will obtain your medical history and will perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions documenting rib cage pain in detail may include the following:

  • Time pattern       o When did the pain develop?       o Is it present all the time?       o Is it getting worse?  
  • Quality       o How would you describe the pain?       o Is it a sharp or stabbing sensation?       o Does it feel like pulling or grabbing?       o Does it ache like a bruise?       o Is it a crushing pain?       o Does it feel like pressure or heaviness?       o Note: crushing, pressure, or heaviness may be signs of serious Chest pain (angina or Heart attack ).  
  • Location       o Exactly where is the pain?       o Is it only on one side?       o Is it the same on both sides?  
  • Aggravating factors       o Is the pain worse when bending or twisting?       o Is it worse when coughing?       o Is it worse when breathing deeply?       o Has there been an injury to the chest?  
  • What other symptoms are also present?

Physical examination may include emphasis on the lungs and chest cavity.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:

  • Chest x-ray  
  • Bone scan (if there is known history of cancer or it is highly suspected)

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.