Rib cage pain

Definition

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

See: Chest pain

Alternative Names

Pain - rib cage

Considerations

With a broken rib, the pain gets worse when bending and twisting the body. Such movement does not cause the pain in those who have pleurisy (swelling of the lining of the lungs) or muscle spasms.

Common Causes

  • Bruised, cracked, or fractured rib
  • Inflammation of cartilage near the breastbone (costochondritis)
  • Osteoporosis
  • 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 treating 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 perform a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history, including:

  • When did the pain develop?
  • Is it present all the time?
  • Is it getting worse?
  • How would you describe the pain?
  • Is it a sharp or stabbing sensation?
  • Does it feel like pulling or grabbing?
  • Does it ache like a bruise?
  • Is it a crushing pain?
  • Does it feel like pressure or heaviness? (This may be a sign of angina or heart attack)
  • Exactly where is the pain?
  • Is it only on one side?
  • Is it the same on both sides?
  • Is the pain worse when bending or twisting?
  • Is it worse when coughing?
  • Is it worse when breathing deeply?
  • Has there been an injury to the chest?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Tests that may be performed include:

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

References

Lee-Chiong T, Gebhart GF, Matthay RA. Chest pain. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 30.

Reynolds JH. Thoracic trauma and related topics. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 20.