Pain Under Left Rib Cage

pain-277062_1280Rib cage has many roles in the thoracic part of the body, where it preserves vital organs. It consists of ribs connected to the sternum on the front side of the body and on the back to the spine. The pain in the left side of the rib cage can be caused by bone, muscle or an organ damage inside the area where it keeps it safe. This kind of pain can be a dull or a sharp one, and it can develop quickly during an injury or slowly due to some cancer or happening inside the organ. Because this pain can mean a severe condition, even a heart problem, it is important to investigate the origin of the problem and consult your doctor immediately.

Possible Causes Of The Pain Under Left Rib Cage

Because it can be caused by trauma and broken ribs to an organ failure or a strained muscle, there are a few ways to identify each cause and treat it the right way. Most of the time people misinterpret pain under the left rib cage as a heart pain, but that is not always the case.

Broken Rib

A fracture of the rib can happen usually during car crash trauma or fall from the ladder. It can be painful, especially during breathing and moving that side of the rib cage, so people tend to take a position to minimize the movement of that side of the body. There are a few ways a rib can break. It can just crack and not split into two parts, or it can have multiple fractures where it can lead even to pneumothorax, where it can cause damage of the lung sack and excessive air in the thorax, causing reduction of negative pressure and difficulty of breathing. This can be life threatening if it’s a tension pneumothorax, where the air only goes in because of the one-way valve created with the damaged tissue which stops the air from coming out. If a simple fracture is a case, the healing can take one to two months with immobilisation and pain killers. If the fracture is more complex, a surgery may be needed.

Gas In The Colon

This is one of the most common reasons of the pain under the left side of the rib cage. It is caused by air which is trapped in the splenic flexure, which is why this is called Splenic Flexure Syndrome. The gas can irritate the nerve endings in the walls of the intestine and result in pain in the affected area. It is important to find the cause of this unpleasant event, where it could be lactose intolerance, celiac disease, food poisoning or a food which is causing irritation and allergy. You can do a test for the food ingredients to see if you have allergies for any types of food. People with gas tend to lean over the chair as it helps them to shift the air and get it outside.

Acid Reflux

This is a cause that was mostly misinterpreted as a heart attack or angina pectoris. It is related to certain food ingestion and drinking carbonated beverages. It can provoke the stomach and create acidic surrounding which irritates the mucous membranes of the organ. This kind of pain is sharp and strong. Because of the irritation of the mucosa, an acid can go up to the oesophagus and cause reflux and heartburn. Other types of sharp pain can be due to lack of the acid in the stomach which doesn’t digest the food, leading to bloating of the stomach. Dilatation can stimulate the pain receptors and produce pain.


Costochondritis or Tietze syndrome is an inflammation of the costal cartilages. This is a rare condition where the inflamed area can cause pain and swelling of the tissue. It can radiate to shoulder and arm and become gradually painful. The risk factors can be viruses, trauma, genetics, etc. The way it can be differentiated from a heart attack or angina pectoris is to touch the skin. If the skin is tender, then it is most likely it is costochondritis. The organs are behind the sternum and will not cause pain on touch. Usually, it doesn’t need any medications, it subsides after two to three weeks. If you are in a lot of pain, you can use some over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen or aspirin.

Treating The Pain Under The Left Rib Cage

The treatment will be different depending on the cause. For some conditions, the therapy is not needed and it can heal by itself. Unlike those conditions, some require proper treatment and medications. If the problem is caused by rib fracture, an immobilisation is needed and some pain killers. It needs medical attention in order to heal properly. For some fractures that are complicated, doctors may opt for surgery. If it’s pneumothorax, doctors may insert a chest tube for evacuation of the air from the pleura. If it’s a bowel irritation, a doctor can prescribe some laxatives. In the case of oesophageal reflux, the first thing doctor can recommend is changing the diet. Possible drugs that can be prescribed for this condition are Lansoprazole or Dexlansoprazole. If the problem is caused by costochondritis, you should try with OTC painkillers or Indocin.

If the pain is not going away and it is getting worse, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible. Sometimes, an inferior wall infarction can seem like acid reflux or vice versa. If this is the case, if treated in early stages, it can have a positive outlet.

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