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Ribcage pain

Definition

Ribcage pain includes any pain or discomfort in the area of the ribs.

Alternative Names

Pain - ribcage

Considerations

With a broken rib, the pain is 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 ribcage fracture.

Follow your health care provider's instructions for treating the cause of ribcage pain.

Call your health care provider if

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you do not know the cause of the pain, or if it is ongoing.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider may perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms and medical history, including:

  • When did the pain start?
  • Is it there all the time?
  • Is it getting worse?
  • How would you describe the pain?
  • Is the pain sharp or stabbing?
  • 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 ordered include:

Your health care provider may prescribe treatment for your ribcage pain. Treatment depends on the cause.

References

Lee-Chiong T, Gebhart GF, Matthay RA. Chest pain. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al., eds. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 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: Elsevier Churchill-Livingstone; 2008:chap 20.


Review Date: 1/22/2013
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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