The rib cage plays a very important role in protecting the entire cardiovascular system. Normally, each person has 12 rib bones located on either side of the thoracic cavity. At times, people may feel various levels of pain under right rib cage. This pain can cause much discomfort, whether it is mild or severe. More often than not, the pain is due to a change in posture; however, there are times when an underlying medical issue is the real culprit. When there is an underlying medical issue, it is important that appropriate care and treatment is given.

What Causes Pain Under Right Rib Cage?


Strain on the Intercostal Muscles

The intercostal muscles are just one of the many groups of muscles which connect the ribs. These particular muscles expand and contract as we breathe; it is very noticeable when these muscles are inflamed or infected as you will feel a pain under right rib cage. Most of the time, relaxation and/or medication can aid in relieving these symptoms.



Gallstones develop in the gallbladder, which is located in the upper right abdomen under the liver, and move into its ducts, causing mild to severe pain below the right rib cage. Some symptoms may be nausea, vomiting, fever, or rapid heart rate and the pain can move toward the right shoulder. There may even be a severe pain in the upper right abdomen if the stone has blocked the bile flow. Most of the time, gallstones can be surgically removed or treated with medications.



Inflammation of the muscles of the rib cage, known as costochondritis, cause pain below the right rib cage. Excessive coughing leads to extra stress on the rib cage and viral infections can cause a pain under right rib cage. Most of the time, the pain will be accompanied by a sore throat, fatigue and fever. The pain can be relieved with anti-inflammatory prescriptions.


Liver Problems

A damaged liver is one of the most common causes of sharp pain under right rib cage. Diseases such as hepatitis, fatty liver, congestive heart failure, and many others cause the liver to become infected resulting in pain. Sometimes blocked blood vessels due to blood clots can also cause the pain. Detecting liver disease early helps prevent serious health conditions, always consult your doctor if you experience pain in your liver region.



Most of the time, the infection and inflammation of the pancreas will create a sharp, acute pain under right rib cage. The pain will then spread to the sides and back. Eating a diet of heavy meals and drinking excess alcohol can lead to pancreatitis. When you notice fever, yellowish skin, increased heart rate, or vomiting along with the pain, you need to consult your physician.


Acid Reflux and Ulcers

The reflux of acid and regurgitation of food will cause a sharp pain under right rib cage. A burning sensation in the throat may also occur. Ulcers may lead to abdominal bleeding or tearing; it is important that both acid reflux and ulcers receive adequate diagnosis and treatment.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Vomiting and altered bowel movements are signs that you may have inflammatory bowel disease. The pain under right rib cage occurs when there is an inflammation or obstruction within the gut after eaten certain foods. If left untreated, this may lead to more severe irritations such as Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is the severe inflammation of the large intestine. Along with a severe pain under right rib cage, you may also experience diarrhea, flatulence, and other abdominal discomfort. Keeping your doctor up to date with this disease is of vital importance for your health.


Trauma to Ribs or Its Cartilages

Any accidents or repetitive trauma and movement from certain sports may lead to a pain under right rib cage. If you are in a crushing or falling accident, you need to seek immediate medical help. You may also notice a sharp pain develop when you complete certain repetitive movements, in this case it is also important that you seek medical attention as the injury may be even more serious. Only chest x-rays can determine the seriousness of the injury.



A small part of the intestine, known as the appendix, may get infected causing a sharp pain under right rib cage. The pain is due to the inflammation and will need immediate diagnosis and treatment.


Special Cases

  • During pregnancy: The hormonal changes, increasing size of the uterus and the breasts, may lead to pain under right rib cage. Most of the time this is normal, but always remember to let your doctor know.

  • During running: Known as a stitch, the sharp pain under right rib cage while you are running may be caused may several reasons. Some of the most common reasons are: over hydrating, overeating, uneven breathing, or even dehydration.

How to Deal With Pain Under Right Rib Cage

  • Medications: The medication required for treatment is dependent upon the cause of the pain. There are several varieties of medication for the individual circumstances. Most of the inflammatory causes can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes the use of over-the-counter pain medications will treat the symptoms.

  • Dietary changes: When you suffer from pain under right rib cage due to intestinal inflammation, a change in your diet will cure the symptoms. 

  • Surgery: In some instances such as gallstones, flail chest or fractured ribs, surgery is needed to relieve the symptoms.

Should I Worry?

There are times when you may feel a mild or sharp pain under your right rib cage; this is not always a concern. If it goes away after a few minutes, and does not return, you most likely do not have anything to worry about. 

However, if the pain persists or you have underlying health issues you need to contact your doctor. Also be sure that you are aware of other symptoms occurring along with the pain so that your doctor can properly diagnose you.


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