There are Many Possible Causes for Rib Pain
Author: George McKenzie
Identifying the cause of rib pain can be difficult because of the number of possibilities. There are a lot. First, let's take a look at someof the obvious ones: rib pain caused by injuries.
Fractured (Broken) or Cracked Ribs - People who have had cracked or broken ribs say it's one of the most severe kinds of pain possible - right up there with gunshot wounds, childbirth and kidney stones. A cracked or broken rib is usually easy to diagnose, however. The most common reasons for cracked or fractured ribs include accidents and falls. Painful breathing is a typical symptom. The injured area is likely to be extremely sensitive, and any movement involving the arms or torso will cause discomfort.
Cartilage Injury - When the cartilage that joins your ribs to your sternum (also called the breastbone) is injured or damaged, the resulting pain will feel like a rib injury. Symptoms of cartilage damage in your chest resemble the symptoms of a broken or cracked rib, but may not be as severe. Nonetheless, it can be uncomfortable to laugh, cough or even breathe.
Soft Tissue Damage - There are a number of soft tissue structures that crisscross the ribcage. An injury to any of these muscles, tendons or ligaments will cause ribcage pain. Moving or using the affected area will be painful. The area is also likely to be sensitive to pressure.
Bone Related Issues
Joint inflammation - Many middle-aged people and seniors are familiar with this one. Joint inflammation near the ribs can feel like rib pain. Two very common conditions include the following.
Osteoarthritis - Cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone and backbone wears out with age. The resulting inflammation causes pain.
Rheumatoid Arthritis - When you have this disease, you body's immune system attacks itself. When this happens in joints and connections around the ribs, it causes rib pain.
Rib Pain Caused by Lung Conditions and Diseases
There are several diseases and conditions of the lungs that cause pain in the ribs. These include:
Pleurisy - When the lining between your lungs and your ribs (known as the "pleura") becomes inflamed due to an infection, it results in sharp pains in the area of the ribcage.
Pneumonia - Pneumonia is a lung infection. It may trigger sharp pain in the the rib cage when you cough, laugh or sneeze.
Tuberculosis - There are a number of symptoms of tuberculosis, including ribcage pain. Some of the others are fever, coughing and fatigue.
Rib Pain and Other Diseases and Disorders
Several types of cancer can cause pain in the ribs or ribcage area. The most common of these include lung cancer and multiple myeloma.
Lung cancer patients often have rib pain in the upper back, and ribcage pain is a symptom in about 80 percent of multiple myeloma cases.
Rib pain is often a symptom in several diseases related to extended exposure to pollutants. Mesothelioma and asbestosis lead the list in this category.
Ribcage pain from mesothelioma is caused by long term exposure to asbestosis, resulting in damage to the pericardial lining of the heart and the pleural lining of the lungs. Similarly, asbestosis is caused by a build up of scar tissue caused by asbestosis fibers.
Other Causes of Pain in the Ribs
The following causes for pain in the ribs fit into the "miscellaneous" category:
Gallbladder problems like gallstones or a gallbladder attack. Pain pain can occur in the abdominal area near the ribs, or,in some cases, in the upper back between the shoulder blades.
Nerve issues (especially caused by damage to the spinal column).This category includes shingles, a nerve condition which often starts with acute pain in the ribcage area of the torso.Beforelong,it erupts into an extremely uncomfortable rash on various parts of the body.
Abuse of steroids is another risk factor for rib pain.
Stress and anxiety that causes deep breathing sometimes overextends or strains the muscles around the ribcage.
Chest pain from angina is a possibility. Angina is a classic symptom of heart disease.
Obviously, there are dozens of diseases, disorders and conditions that can cause rib pain. While some are very minor and resolve on their own with time, some can be very serious. If your rib pain lasts for more than a few days, or seems to be growing in severity, it would be a good idea to discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
About the Author
George McKenzie is a former TV news anchor, medical reporter and radio talk show host.