Pain Under Ribs

Top 5 Reasons for Pain under Your Ribs

Chest pain should always be treated as though it were a heart attack just to be on the safe side; however there are a number of other reasons that you might feel pain under your ribs or around the rib cage. 

Inside the human chest

The human chest is like a treasure chest.  As jewels and valuables are protected within the confines of a locked treasure chest, so are some of the most vital organs guarded within the human chest.  The lungs and heart are securely held in place and sheltered in the chest cavity surrounded by the rib cage.  Acting as a barrier against outside influences, the rib cage staunchly encircles the organs that keep us alive.  In the front and mid center of the chest is the sternum, a bony structure that is connected to the ribs by ligaments.  The rib bones extend to both the right and left, curving around to the back where they join to the spine.  Various muscles, ligaments and blood vessels are also intertwined within the chest. 

Because of the proximity of all of these thoracic components to the rib cage, there can be numerous causes for discomfort felt under and around the area, ranging from    to extremely serious conditions.  The top reasons for experiencing pain under your ribs are heart attacks, broken or fractured ribs, costochondritis, pleurisy and angina. 

Heart attack

Pressure, squeezing and pain in the center of the chest are common symptoms of a heart attack.  There can also be pain in the jaw, the arms, the back or neck, accompanied by shortness of breath, cold sweat or nausea.  This discomfort can either be steady for several minutes or it may come and go.  Because heart attacks are life threatening conditions, these symptoms should never be taken lightly.  Even if an individual is doubtful of the severity of their symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.  Heart attacks are not always sudden occurrences; they often begin slowly and build in intensity.  The earlier they are diagnosed and treated, the more successful the healing will be.  Indeed, every moment a person waits to obtain treatment could be one more step closer to death.

Broken ribs

Breaking ribs is much more common that might be believed.  It often happens as result of trauma to the chest such as a blunt force blow, a car accident, falling or even contact during a sport.  Pain is the primary symptom, generally experienced when a deep breath is attempted.  Turning, bending or twisting the torso will also create pain, as will pressing on the area of the chest where the injury occurred.   The majority of breaks will heal on their own over a period of several weeks, but will require pain medication to ensure that you are able to breathe fully.  Because sustained short breaths can result in pneumonia, normal breathing patterns are essential.


One of the most common causes for experiencing pain under your ribs, costochondritis is somewhat of a mystery.  The cause is not known.  Pain is felt around the sternum, but can extend to the shoulder and arm. 


While relatively common, the symptoms of angina are enough to cause fear and consternation in those who experience them.  It is caused by a reduced flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, and can produce symptoms similar to heart attacks.  Tightness, pain and compression of the chest are commonly felt.  Because of the similarity of the symptoms, seeking medical attention is strongly recommended.    

Kidney stones are also responsible for creating pain under your ribs, though not as well known of a cause.  Pain is felt first in the back, spreading to the front under the rib cage.  Changes in the urine will also accompany the pain.

While there are numerous reasons for pain around the ribs, experiencing this discomfort should always be cause for concern.  Seeking immediate medical attention could be the difference between life and death.