What is rib pain?

Rib pain includes any type of pain or discomfort that occurs in the ribs. Ribs are long, slender bones that curve around the chest to create the rib cage. The top 10 ribs on both sides of the body attach to the thoracic (mid-back) spine and breastbone (sternum) by joints and ligaments. The bottom two ribs attach by ligaments to the spine, but not to the breastbone, and are sometimes called the “floating” ribs.

The rib cage helps support the entire skeleton and also contains and protects the thoracic cavity (chest) and its contents, including the lungs, heart, and other major structures of the respiratory and cardiovascular system. The rib cage also protects some organs and structures of the digestive, nervous and lymphatic systems.

Rib pain can occur in any age group or population and may be described as a stabbing, tearing, tender, aching or gnawing pain. Rib pain is a symptom of a wide variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions that range from mild to very serious. Many causes of rib pain are associated with injury or inflammation of the muscles, cartilage and ligaments in the rib cage and middle spine area. For example, rib pain can result from a relatively mild condition that is fairly easy to treat, such as straining of the rib cage due to coughing associated with a common cold, or from everyday muscle strain.

Rib pain can also be a symptom of more serious conditions such as broken ribs, osteoporosis, bone cancer, or pleurisy.

Only a thorough medical evaluation can determine if your rib pain, or any type of pain in your chest, is caused by a condition of the rib cage or by another condition that is occurring within the chest, such as a heart attack or collapsed lung (pneumothorax). Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have unexplained pain in your rib cage, chest pain, a crushing feeling or pressure in your chest, shortness of breath, or a change in consciousness.


What other symptoms might occur with rib pain?

Rib pain can occur in conjunction with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.For example, if rib pain is related to an infection, such as pneumonia, you may experience a fever and body aches. Pain can also travel from the shoulders, arms and back to your ribs.
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What causes rib pain?

Rib pain can be caused by a variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions that can result from infection, myocardial infarction (heart attack), inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other abnormal processes. Rib pain is often due to injury such as strained or broken ribs or pulled muscles and tendons. ... Read more about rib paincauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 8, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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