Sudden sharp pain under right rib cage can occur without an onset warning and may be also very discomforting. The pain comes and goes away after a few hours and you can’t tell when it is going to come again.
The human body consists of many organs, and each organ comprises of specialized anatomical structures. Whenever any of these anatomical structures are unable to perform their functions owing to an injury or an ailment, one is likely to experience certain symptoms.
Sudden sharp pain under rib cage is a very common symptom that shows that some part of the body has been adversely affected. Pain may arise from the affected body part or could even move from another part of the body. The intensity of pain may vary, depending on the severity of the underlying injury or ailment. Hence, it is indeed important to undergo a proper medical examination to identify the cause of pain.
However, there can be various condition which may lead to or cause sharp pain under the right rib cage.
Causes of Pain Below the Right Rib Cage
1. Rib Injuries:
The rib cage is indeed a very vital part of the human anatomy. This consists of twelve pairs of ribs, a T-shaped bone called sternum, costal cartilages and 12 thoracic vertebrae.
This bony framework usually plays a significant role in protecting the organs located in the thoracic region. Some of the sensitive organs protected by the rib cage are the heart and lungs.
Under the rib cage lie many organs that form a part of the abdomen. Majority of the organs that connected to the abdominal region are a part of the digestive system. These include the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, stomach, small intestine, and the large intestine. The right ovary and right fallopian tube are also located on the right side of the abdomen in women. A sudden sharp pain could also occur if any of the organs located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen get adversely affected due to ailment or an injury.
2. Inflammation of the Costal Cartilage:
Rib cage pain may as well occur because of inflammation of the costal cartilage. Costal cartilage can be referred to as the cartilage that is present at the junction of the ribs and the sternum.
However, this condition is medically known to be costochondritis. The situation can be caused by the trauma of the chest wall. In some cases, viral respiratory infections might also cause inflammation of the costal cartilage.
Even as the pain usually occurs in the chest region, it can sometimes radiate to the upper abdomen.
If the inflammation is experienced in the right side of the rib cage, pain may radiate to the upper right section of the rib cage.
The common symptoms of osteochondritis are painful breathing and tenderness on the costosternal. The intercostal muscles, which are the muscles that found between the ribs, help the rib cage to expand and drop during inhalation and exhalation respectively.
Most likely, inflammation of the muscles due to a rib injury may cause you to experience pain while breathing. The ribs are curved structure of bones that form a major part of the rib cage.
It protects the organs within the chest region. In as much as the ribs are indeed strong, they can get fractured as a result of strain or vehicle accidents. If in the case of activities on the chest like a heavy blow or slam against a steering wheel in a motor vehicle accident, there is a great possibility that ribs may get bruised or develop cracks.
In some serious cases, it can be fractured. However, the lower set of ribs on the right side of the rib cage can be damaged due to injury. In such a case, you may likely experience sharp pain under the rib cage.
3. Liver Disease:
The liver is located just under the ribs on the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It liver carries out various important functions such as the production of certain proteins, immune factors and a digestive juice called bile.
It also helps in removing the toxins from the blood. Sharp pain below the right side of the rib cage may also be a sign of liver diseases.
Pain in the upper right section of the abdomen can also be caused by some condition. Such may include, hepatomegaly, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and a variety of liver diseases.
Intake of drugs for a longer period, exposure to toxins, excessive consumption of alcohol, infection, injury or autoimmune disorders are some of the common contributory factors for liver damage.
4. Spleen Conditions
The spleen is located high in the lower part of the rib near the top of the stomach. It is found right below the diaphragm and is protected by the lower rib cage.
The spleen protects from infections, filters metabolic waste products and produces red and white blood cells. Pain may arise in the upper left abdomen due to disorders of the spleen. The pain experienced often radiates to the left shoulder.
As a result of the spleen location, it can be open to injury. If there is a blunt-force trauma to the spleen it can rupture the spleen. This situation may be caused by a motor vehicle accident, physical assault or a sports-related injury.
Some signs and symptoms associated with a ruptured spleen include pain and tenderness in the left upper abdominal quadrant.
Reduced blood pressure, lightheadedness, and confusion may be experienced due to severe internal bleeding caused by the ruptured spleen. A situation of ruptured spleen requires very urgent medical attention.
Inflammation of the spleen, or splenomegaly, can also result in left upper quadrant pain, which is often described as fullness. Splenomegaly can occur with a variety of conditions, including:
- Leukemia or lymphoma
- Hepatitis or cirrhosis
- Sickle cell disease
- Infectious mononucleosis
5. Lung Conditions
This condition may involve the diaphragm, which is a muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities in your lower rib cage area.
On the right side of your body, your right lung is located at the top of the diaphragm and the liver just below the muscle. As such, lung conditions affecting the right lower lung can sometimes cause irritation and RUQ pain.
Right lower lobe pneumonia is the most common lung-related cause for RUQ pain. Less common causes include a right-sided lung blood clot (pulmonary embolism), a lung abscess, and inflammation of the thin sac encasing the lung (pleurisy).
6. Digestive Disorders:
Pain may be experienced under the lower right rib cage if the organs present in the abdomen are adversely affected by medical conditions. Unhealthy dietary habits often lead to digestive disorders.
Irritable bowel syndrome is one such disorder that causes bloating, gas, constipation and other distressing symptoms.
Appendix, which is a finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine, is located in the lower right area of the abdomen. Inflammation of the appendix gives rise to severe pain.
At times, pain that may be arising from the inflamed appendix might radiate towards the region below upper right quadrant of the abdomen. If an inflamed appendix ruptures, it could even lead to death. Pancreatitis, which refers to the inflammation of the pancreas, could also give rise to pain below the rib cage.
Besides the aforementioned conditions, the formation of kidney stones in the right kidney could also be a contributory factor for pain.
If a large kidney stone gets stuck in the right ureter, it will obstruct the passage of urine and cause a sudden sharp pain below the right rib cage.
If left untreated, the symptoms may worsen and complications could arise. So, those of you who have been experiencing frequents bouts of right-sided rib cage pain must immediately seek medical help. It’s essential that the underlying cause of pain be determined as soon as possible.
If you feel that such episodes of pain arise under certain circumstances, such as after meals or during coughing, make it a point to mention it to your doctor.
The use of painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids will fasten the recovery, but in severe cases of rib fractures or large gallstones or kidney stones, surgery might be recommended.
7. Tietze’s Syndrome
It is an inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage. This condition is also known as Costochondritis or chest wall pain. Usually, this condition affects the cartilage where the upper ribs connected to the breastbone, an area called the costosternal joint.
The pain on the ribs (both on right side of ribs or the left side) caused by costochondritis can range from mild to severe. People with costochondritis often experience chest pain in the upper and middle rib area on either side of the breastbone.
The possible causes for this condition are trauma to the chest, certain viruses or respiratory conditions, arthritis, pain due to any physical activity (heavy weight lifting and vigorous exercise), etc.
The pain may get worse if you stretch, move, or breathe deeply. Without any treatment, it often goes away within a few weeks, but few cases may require treatment.
If your appendix gets infected, you can experience sharp pain on the right side of the abdomen under ribs.
The inflammation and irritation of appendix at the end of your large intestine is known as appendicitis. Initially, it causes cramps around your belly button and spreads to the lower right side of your abdomen under ribs. Soon the cramps can be bad or severe.
The common cause of appendicitis is an obstruction in the appendix. A burst appendix can be life-threatening and treatment is a must to cure or remove it.
8. Gallbladder Problems:
The gallbladder is a small pear-shaped sac that is located just below the liver, in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen.
One may experience pain below the rib cage due to cholecystitis. Cholecystitis is the inflammation of the gallbladder. This may occur due to the formation of gallstones.
Gallstones are stone-like deposits that form due to the crystallization of bilirubin or cholesterol. Those who have gallstones often experience a sharp pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen after eating meals, especially fatty meals.
Those who experience such symptoms must undergo gallbladder disease checkup at the earliest time.
9. Biliary Colic
Biliary colic is a temporary blockage of bile flow from the gallbladder. It is also a leading cause of pain in the right upper quadrant (RUQ).
This causes a gallbladder attack (known medically as biliary colic). It usually comes with achy RUQ pain that sometimes radiates to the right shoulder.
The pain occurs due to the buildup of pressure and subsides after the temporary blockage resolves, basically within five hours or less. Some people also experience queasiness and/or nausea. Biliary colic tends to recur periodically and is usually due to gallstones.
Sudden Sharp Pain Under Right Rib Cage- Cure
Medically, the first step to cure of any ailment is to visit a professional or a doctor for proper diagnosis. That may lead to a change of lifestyle, diet and use drugs that will put a stop to the sudden sharp pain under right rib cage. Therefore, visit your doctor today.