Pain Under Left Rib Cage – You May Have a Serious Health Condition

A Sharp Pain Under the Left Rib Cage could be indicative of various severe health conditions. It is often linked to heart issues. However, it could also be a sign of kidney diseases, angina, enlarged spleen, digestive issues, heartburn, cardiac issues and more. In any case, the pain should not be ignored. Not opting for a proper treatment in time may lead to further complications such as pleurisy, collapsed lung, costochondritis respiratory infection, pneumonia and can even turn out to be life-threatening. However, if you know the exact cause of the pain, treatment can be a lot easier.

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While some chest pains are sharp and acute, others feel more like an uncomfortable burning sensation that simply refuses to go away. Together with this, you could also experience other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, coughing and pain radiating towards the shoulder, neck and jaws. This article covers all the different types of pain felt under the left rib cage, their causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Although there are some effective treatments you can follow at home, it is best to get the issue identified and treated professionally by a doctor.

Topics Covered

Types of Pain Felt Under the Left Rib Cage

1. Pain While Breathing:

If the pain is felt while breathing, it could be indicative of some lung diseases. Many times, different complications lead to the collapsing of the lungs. When this happens, the patient is prone to experiencing difficulty while breathing.

2. Sudden and Sharp Pain:

If the pain felt is sharp and stabbing, there could be an injury to the rib cage, maybe a broken rib. This type of pain is also felt when there is a complication of the spleen.

3. Pain after Eating

If you experience, it means that the digestive system is not functioning properly. This can be avoided by eating the food slowly and in smaller amounts.

4. Dull Pain

Dull pain is often an indication of ulcer but can also occur due to gas formation in the colon. It is usually felt after eating.

5. Temporary Cramping

Sometimes, the excess amount of gas present in the stomach may lead to a sharp but temporary pain. This caused by select food items and also due to eating in excess. If you have been experiencing this type of pain, make it a point to keep a track of the food items that you have been eating.

6. Pain Under the Rib Cage in the Frontal Part of the Body

There can be many different reasons for this type of pain and the exact cause can be determined by noting the sharpness of the pain and the timing when it occurs.

7. Pain Under the Rick Towards the Back

If the pain is felt towards the back, it could be indicative of kidney issues, particularly stones. In such cases, the pain can be very intense.

Causes of Pain Under the Left Rib Cage

Since the heart is located right under the ribcage, most heart-related issues can cause pain over the left shoulder, left arm and under the rib cage. However, there are also organs like the pancreas, spleen, large intestine, lungs and kidney under the left rib cage. Therefore, an infection, inflammation or any other issues related to these organs can also lead to a pain under the left ribcage, extending towards the back and upper abdomen.

1. Heart Attack

When you feel a sharp pain under the left rib cage, there are high chances that you might have just suffered a heart attack. This happens when the heart does get enough supply of the oxygen-rich blood as a result of a blockage in the coronary artery. It can be heart attack when the pain is accompanied by

  • A squeezing sensation in the chest
  • Discomfort in the jaws, neck, shoulder, back, and arms
  • A burning sensation radiating outwards from the center of the chest
  • Cold sweat, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting

2. Angina

Angina could also be the origin of pain under the rib cage. This is mainly caused by a poor blood circulation arising out of arteries that have grown narrow or blocked due to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This condition is mainly seen in overweight people. Although the symptoms are similar to heart attack, angina is not really a heart attack. However, if the condition is unstable, it could also lead to heart attack.

3. Pericarditis

It could be pericarditis if the pain under the left rib cage is constant and gets worse while coughing. This is caused when the protective sac surrounding the heart gets inflamed. Although the exact causes of this inflammation are not known, it can be very painful when it occurs. It is thought that pericarditis could arise due to rheumatoid arthritis or when the heart or the rib cage suffers a trauma.

4. Costochondritis

Costochondritis is a condition in which the breastbone gets inflamed. It is mostly caused after surgeries in the upper chest when the breastbone suffers minor traumas. The pain gets even more intense while coughing and radiates towards the left side of the left side of the abdomen and the back. Avoiding strenuous exercises and using hot compresses could be helpful in reducing the pain.

5. Pancreatitis

Being located right under the left rib cage, an inflammation of the pancreas could cause pain in the abdomen towards the upper left part. Since pancreas has its head on the right, the pain can also be felt towards the right side of the chest. Pancreatitis mainly occurs because of an inflammation from overuse of alcohol and sometimes, due to the presence of gallstones. The pain can worsen following the consumption of fatty foods and spread towards the back and the left shoulder as well.

6. Spleen Disease

An enlargement of the spleen can also be one of the contributing factors for pain under the left rib cage. The pain can also be felt while breathing. The spleen disease can make it very difficult to eat larger meals in a single sitting. If you experience any such symptoms, it should immediately be brought before the doctor’s attention.

7. Lung Disease

Respiratory infections and other diseases affecting the lungs can also be the reason for the pain under the left cage. However, it is not necessary that the pain is felt under the left rib cage. Depending on the side of the lung that has been affected, the pain can be felt under the left as well as the right rib cage. If not treated in time, this could lead to serious complications. Therefore, it is best to consult a physician as soon as possible. Some of the most common lung diseases resulting in chest pain include:

  • Pneumonia

Pneumonia can cause a stabbing pain in the lungs, which gets worse even while breathing and coughing. The condition is also accompanied by fever and a general lack of good health.

  • Pleurisy

Pleurisy is a condition wherein the tissues forming a covering over the lung get filled with fluid leading to an inflammation. This puts a constant pressure on the lungs, thereby giving rise to intense pain.

  • Lung Collapse

A lung collapse can cause intense and sharp pain which gets worse while breathing deeply. It can even lead to secondary issues such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough and rapid breathing. A collapsed lung is mainly caused by either a trauma or a surgery of the rib cage.

8. Digestive Problems

There are a number of digestive issues that may lead to pain under the rib cage. For a proper treatment, it is very necessary to identify the exact cause of the pain.

  • Heartburn

Heartburns are caused by the digestive acid leaking into the esophagus. Although the symptoms are similar to heart attack, heartburns are very different to heart attacks. A burning sensation is felt mainly in the chest and the upper abdomen.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is caused due to the presence of excess gas in the stomach leading to pain on the left part of the abdomen. The symptoms can come in short bouts of intense pain as well as a constant dull pain over a prolonged period of time.

  • IBD

Irritable bowel disease could be Crohn’s disease as well as ulcerative colitis. The disease results in an inflamed digestive tract and pain under the ribs.

  • Constipation

Constipation can be the reason of the buildup of hard stool inside the colon. This can cause abdominal pain, chest pain as well as respiratory problems.

9. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are caused by the salts and minerals getting deposited inside the kidneys. Every time the stone moves, a sharp pain can be felt below the ribs. This can be treated with medicines as well as surgery.

10. Rib Injury

Any damage to the rib cage and the surrounding muscles could cause pain under the rib cage. The intensity of the pain depends on the amount of damage. If the treatment is delayed, the condition can get complicated, leading to more pain. If ignored for long, it can even lead to kidney damage. Rib injuries are mainly caused by a trauma to the rib cage, resulting in fractures and breakages.

Also Read: 9 Signs and Symptoms of BRUISED RIBS?

Diagnosis of Pain Under the Left Rib Cage

The diagnosis of the cause of the pain is not very complicated. However, the potential causes could be many, which is why the patient will be required to go through multiple processes. The doctors will ask for a detailed and complete medical history of the patient. The patients are also put to a series of questions to see if any of the conditions can be ruled out. This is then followed by physical exams, blood and urine test and imaging tests such as MRIs and X rays. Some cases may require a more detailed diagnosis complete with bioscopy of tissues and endoscopy.

Treatment of Pain Under the Left Rib Cage

There are various approaches for the treatment of pain under the left rib cage. It could range from simple lifestyle changes to medicines to an emergency surgery depending on what has been causing the pain. If the pain is merely related to eating habits, it may be easily avoided by changing the dieting habits. However, it could also be because of a number of other things and avoid any further complication of the issue, it is best to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Given below are different approaches to the treatment of pain under the left rib cage.

1. Surgery

A surgery is usually is the last resort and is avoided as much as possible. However, certain cases such as stroke, angina or broken ribs puncturing organs such as the lungs and pancreas require an emergency operation.

2. Medicines

If the pain has been caused by an inflammation or infection of the organs surrounding the rib cage, the treatment is done through the use of anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and medicines for pain relief. In case of kidney stones, medicines for internally dissolving the stone may be used so as to avoid surgery.

3. Changes in the Diet and Lifestyle

Changes in the diet and lifestyle are mainly recommended when the pain has been caused due to digestive issues. The patients are advised to eat lesser amounts of acidic foods and instead opt for non-citrus fruits such as melons, avocados, and bananas. It can also be very helpful to increase the intake of green leafy vegetables. This will help prevent indigestion and heartburn by lowering the acid reflux in the stomach.

4. Natural Remedies

Natural remedies include the use of herbs which are effective in reducing the inflammation as well as pain. Hot and cold compresses are also popularly used for relaxing sore muscles, improve circulation and provide relief from inflammation.

When to See a Doctor?

To be on the safer side, it is best to visit a doctor whenever you experience any unusual or prolonged pain under the left rib cage. There is a greater need to be alarmed if the pain does not go away in a few weeks and instead slowly builds up. You should know that it’s time to see a doctor, especially if the pain is accompanied by

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fluctuating blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Squeezing sensation under the breastbone
  • Crushing pain under the rib cage
  • Pain radiating towards the left arm, back and jaw
  • Cold chills
  • Fever


You should note that the pain under the rib cage can go away and come back again, which can make you feel that it’s not really urgent. Although you may find it much more convenient to use natural remedies, it is highly advisable to opt for a proper diagnosis by a doctor.

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