Pain under left rib cage

Are you experiencing pain under your left rib cage? This is a common problem faced by many people across the world, even those who are in good health otherwise. Find out what causes left rib pain and how it can be treated.

Pain under Left Rib Cage Definition

The rib cage, also referred to as the thoracic cavity, supports the shoulder girdle and surrounds the chest muscles. It comprises of twenty four bones and acts as a protective covering for a number of vital organs of the body. A pain in the rib cage of the left side of the body is a common occurrence and can arise due to a number of reasons.

What Causes Pain under Left Rib Cage?

Painful sensations under the ribs, in the left side of the body, may occur due to acute disorders, injuries or various underlying conditions. Some of the common causes of left rib pain include:

Picture of Pain under left rib cage

Picture 1 - Pain under left rib cage

Injuries

An injury to the left rib cage can give rise to severe pain in under the ribs, particularly when the affected person is breathing deeply. Chest x-rays can help diagnose injuries in the area. The pain often arises due to a severe blow, occurring during contact sports activities. The intensity of pain may vary depending on the severity of the injury.

In some cases, a very severe injury may cause fracture of the bone. The impacted region does not remain localized in such circumstances. The damage may spread to the lungs, chest and other vital organs in the adjoining area. Medical attention is required on an immediate basis in case of a rib fracture. If treatment is neglected, life-threatening problems may ensue.

Costochondritis

Left rib pain may also arise due to Costochondritis, which is caused by a viral infection of cartilages that attach the ribs to the breastbone or a severe impact of the rib cage area and shoulder. Patients suffer from acute pain close to the breastbone as they breathe heavily. Costochondritis is often confused with heart attack as the painful symptoms originate from the region below the breastbone. A physical examination can help diagnose this condition.

Indigestion

Left rib pain is a common problem in people suffering from indigestion. A pain that originate without any warning or in the absence of any trauma to the region may be associated to a digestive problem. The aches, in such cases, generally occur after excessive burping following a heavy meal.

Gastritis

It is a gastrointestinal disorder that often gives rise to aches in left side, beneath the ribs. It results from a bacterial infection which is characterized by an inflammation of the lining of the stomach wall. This intestinal swelling affects the digestive function of sufferers. Frequent vomiting is a classic symptom of this disease and is frequently an inducing factor for rib aches.

Splenic-flexure syndrome

It is also referred to as “Gas in the colon.” It is characterized by the accumulation of excessive gas in the colon, which may trigger painful sensations under the ribcage in the lower left chest or the left upper abdomen. Consumption of foods that cause indigestion may lead to colon gas. People suffering from painful symptoms due to this syndrome should keep seated in a chair to rid their colon of the trapped air.

Heartburn or acid reflux

A common cause of left rib cage pain, it may be triggered due to over-intake of acidic drinks or foods that usually give rise to heartburn. The pain is severe and is sometimes confused with a chest ache. Some people may suffer from a bloated sensation due to deficiency of enough stomach acid to decompose the consumed food.

Pneumothorax

Pain under the ribs may also originate due to a lung collapse caused by a tear in the lung membrane. A rupture in the membrane causes the air to leak out to the cavity between the rib cage and the lungs. Pneumothorax is a severe condition that requires medical care on an urgent basis.

Spleen Irritation

Pain and discomfort beneath the left rib area may also arise due to irritation or tear (rupture) of the spleen. Pain in the extreme ends of the left shoulder is often an additional symptom of a splenic damage or rupture.

Inflammation of cartilage

Swelling of cartilage around the breastbone may also give rise to left rib pain.

Stomach ulcers

An acute pain under the left rib cage may also occur due to a stomach ulcer. An ulcer in the stomach may result in pain that can shift from the rib cage up to the shoulder blade area region. Depending on the intensity of the condition, the pain may recur in intervals or persist for only a few minutes.

Constipation

This is a common causative factor for rib pain. The disorder is characterized by passing of hard stools, which makes bowel movements painful and difficult for sufferers. An individual affected by this disease has to strain and exert more pressure on the colon to push down the stool. This extra effort results in added pressure on the rib cage and subsequently leads to painful symptoms.

Irritable-bowel syndrome (IBS)

The disease results in abdominal cramps, bloating and pain. Depending on the health of the sufferer, it can also disrupt normal bowl movements by causing constipation or diarrhea. Acute painful sensations under the rib cage may also result from intestinal cramps.

Pleurisy, nerve damage and Osteoporosis are some other possible causes of aches in the left rib area.

Kidney Stones

It is a very common cause of aches in the rib. Kidney stones make many people suffer from painful sensations in ribs on a regular basis. Stones originating in either kidney can cause pain. Pain under the left rib area usually indicates the presence of stones in the left kidney. If kidney stones are the cause, pain would usually originate in the back and gradually move to the front area. Affected individuals must immediately contact a doctor and begin treatment for effective removal of kidney stones, following diagnosis.

Diverticulitis

The condition generally affects older patients and arises from a weakness in the muscles of the colon. Diverticulitis leads to a protrusion of the weak region. With progression of the disease, further symptoms begin to manifest. Pain under left rib cage is common in Diverticulitis sufferers and can be quickly remedied by a proper diet. An elderly individual who is suffering from protrusion in the ribs, and experiencing severe pain, is suffering from Diverticulitis in all probability.

Bowel Obstruction

Painful sensations may also originate due to an intertwining of intestines inside the body. Even a minor obstruction in the bowel may give rise to acute pain and discomfort in sufferers. Pain in left rib area often indicates blockage in the part of the intestines in that part of the abdominal area. A bowel obstruction is likely to be the underlying problem if patients are suffering from other problems, like irregular stools and vomiting.

Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis can also be a possible cause of this problem. This is a very severe condition and requires immediate treatment. Viral hepatitis has 5 different categories, each of them severe in its own way. Yellowed skin and eyes and dark urine, along with rib pain, are classic symptoms of Viral hepatitis. The disease spreads very easily. Due to this reason, one must avoid direct contact with other individuals for some time.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

The condition is mostly observed in women and is characterized by a dull, persistent ache that refuses to subside. The pain often moves throughout the entire abdominal region. The aching sensations are also accompanied by fever. Women experiencing pain below ribs in the left side of their body must immediately visit a gynecologist.

Pain under left rib cage Symptoms

The nature of painful symptoms under left rib cage depends on the cause of the disorder. An injury or trauma to the area may give rise to severe pain, which may lessen eventually. An abrupt twisting motion may lead to a pain that may be brief in duration but severe in intensity.

In case of the inflammation of a cartilage, the pain can spread to the arms of patients. This symptom is quite similar to heart attack and is often mistaken for the sign of a cardiac arrest.

Women may also experience painful symptoms during pregnancy. This is normal and usually felt close to the rib area and in the lower breast region. In some cases, doctors administer analgesics (pain relievers) to suffering women to relieve them of painful sensations.

While coughing, people with weak immunity may experience a dull ache in the rib area. This may also occur when an affected person suffers from sinusitis.

In case of an injury, the aches are dull in intensity in the initial stages. In the later stages, they may grow worse and interfere with day to day activities. Carrying objects, such as a bucket of water, and even breathing may become discomforting and painful for sufferers.

Pain under left rib cage Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this ache aims at determining its underlying cause. Pneumonia or Sinusitis may be the cause of painful sensations. Bronchitis can lead to joint aches, abdominal pain and weariness. An X-ray test may be conducted if doctors suspect a fracture. This test lets physicians assess the severity of a possible injury. If patients suffer from a chronic type of pain, which persists for 3 months or more, imaging scans such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computed Tomography) may be carried out.

In some cases, chronic abdominal pain may be indicative of an underlying tumor or cancer. It may also be the sign of possible nerve damage. A blood chemistry exam may be conducted in such cases. This will help find out whether or not an infection has occurred. Further tests might involve an examination of the colon.

Pain under left rib cage Treatment

The treatment of left rib pain differs according to its underlying cause. Effective cure is possible only after a proper diagnosis has been made. If injurious conditions are detected, analgesics such as Ibuprofen may be used to bring about relief. If the pain arises due to a pre-existing disorder, doctors have to deal with that condition in an appropriate manner.

Image of Left rib cage pain

Picture 2 – Left rib cage pain

In case of a fracture, doctors provide patients with certain analgesics to manage constant pain. Patients are also advised to get as much rest as possible. If patients suffer from a splenic fracture, medications may be administered to bring about an improvement in their condition. A ruptured spleen frequently requires surgical intervention.

Tumors and colon cancers require specialized medicines. A simple injury may be managed by pressing an ice pack onto the area.

If the pain results from gas problems, a dietary change may help cure the problem. A more balanced meal, comprising of fruits and vegetables, is recommended for patients. If possible, they should also stop smoking to get relief from the painful symptoms. Cutting down on intake of fatty foods may also be useful for sufferers.

Certain conditions, such as mild swelling of muscles, can be cured with pain-relievers. Broken ribs require medical attention on an emergency basis.

If patients are diagnosed with Pneumothorax, medical treatment depends on the intensity of the problem. In some individuals, doctors may consider inserting a chest tube.

In case of acid reflux or heartburn, drugs such as Dexlansoprazole, Esomeprazole or Lansoprazole (along with dietary changes) may be used for cure.

If the left side pain results from Costochondritis, medications such as Relafen, Indocin and OTC (over the counter) painkillers such as Ibrufen may be used for treating painful symptoms.

If Irritable-Bowel Syndrome is detected, laxatives may be recommended. A high-fiber diet can be useful for long term remedy of the condition.

 

If you are experiencing painful sensations in your left rib area, you should immediately go for a check-up. A timely diagnosis will help you determine the exact cause of the problem and use the right treatment approach to make a faster recovery.

References:

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/left-side-pain-under-ribs.html

http://www.abdomen-pain.com/pain-under-left-rib-cage/

http://www.whatpain.com/pain-under-left-rib-cage.html

http://www.imedwell.org/Pain-Under-Left-Rib-Cage.html

Published on August 19th 2012 by  under Bones, Joints and Muscles.
Article was last reviewed on 19th August 2012.

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