Aching ribs in the lower abdominal region can hinder your movements considerably. Activities that require carrying, bending and twisting may no longer be possible due to annoying discomfort under the left ribs.
The spleen, stomach, lungs, pancreas and the liver are some of the important organs protected by the ribs. Any medical problem that damages any of these organs can trigger rib pain.
Lower left rib pain is often the result of sports injury, but can also occur due to an underlying medical problem. Lifting a small bucket of water, a short morning walk and even deep breathing may cause lower rib pain, depending upon how severe the underlying cause is.
Why are my Ribs Aching in the Lower Left Abdomen
As the name suggests, this condition affects the pancreas that sits in the lower left abdominal cavity. This glandular organ (pancreas) is found at the back of the stomach that releases enzymes to promote digestion. In pancreatitis, there is abnormal enlargement of the pancreas. This condition marked by inflammation of the pancreas can be quite painful and the feeling of discomfort often lingers around lower left rib cage. Too much alcohol consumption, smoking and gallstones trapped in the bile ducts are some of the common factors that put a person in the risk zone of pancreatitis.
Treatment: Treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. In any case, admitting the patient to the hospital is essential to manage the condition. In order to improve pancreatic function and facilitate recovery, the patient will be put on a liquid diet for the first 3-4 days of illness. At the hospital, the patient is given fluids through intravenous means. Painkillers may also be administered intravenously to reduce the discomfort associated with pancreatitis.
Spleen, the triangular shaped organ does an important job of producing white blood cells to combat infections. It is located in the lower left region of the rib cage, to the left hand side of the stomach. Damage to this vital organ due to an injury or spleen disorders makes it swollen or enlarged, leading to persistent pain under left rib cage. Mononucleosis (viral illness) and liver disorders (cirrhosis) are some of the factors that can cause spleen enlargement.
Treatment: Treatment aims at alleviating the underlying cause. So, it is crucial that the underlying factors be diagnosed correctly to initiate the treatment in the right direction. However, if the cause cannot be pinned down, the doctor may perform a surgery to remove the enlarged spleen.
Ulcers (open wounds) occurring in the lining of the stomach wall, primarily due to H. pylori (species of bacteria) infection can also trigger burning sensation in the lower left rib pain. The pain that aggravates intermittently is severe on an empty stomach. The onset of gastrointestinal disorders such as gastritis has also been attributed to H. pylori infection.
Treatment: Antibiotics is the first line of treatment for stomach problems caused by H. pylori infection. Amoxicillin, metronidazole, clarithromycin are some of the antibiotics that may be prescribed to destroy the H. pylori bacteria. Hydrochloric acid released by the cells lining the stomach wall during digestion can irritate the ulcers formed. So, in order to reduce secretion of stomach acid, short term use of proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and esomeprazole (Nexium) may be recommended.
In this condition, inflammation is observed in the portion of the cartilage that attaches the ribs with the breastbone. However, in most cases the point of contact between the cartilage and the rib is inflamed. People affected with costochondritis, often complain about chest pain that many times trickles down to the left side of the ribs. Often diagnosed in children, costochondritis has been associated with chest injury. Activities that put undue strain on the ribs such as a vigorous exercise or lifting heavy objects can also cause costochondritis.
Treatment: NSAIDs such as ibuprofen may help to relieve discomfort associated with costochondritis. Severe pain may not subside with these OTC medications and may require strong painkillers such as narcotic drugs.
Pain in the lower left region of the ribs that aggravates after meals can also be due to GERD, a condition in which the digestive juices of the stomach travel back to the food pipe. Although, pain associated with GERD is experienced in the chest, many times the discomfort moves down to the back and the left ribs.
Treatment: In order to prevent GERD symptoms from flaring up, avoid overeating, maintain a healthy weight and refrain from lying down immediately after having meals. Fried foods, alcohol and caffeinated beverages can aggravate symptoms of heartburn. So make sure, your diet does not contain these heartburn triggers. As far as prescription treatment is concerned, doctors may prescribe medications that restrict production of stomach acids. This may prevent leakage of stomach acids into the esophagus (throat). Antacids that neutralize stomach acidity may also provide relief from heartburn.
In this condition a small portion the stomach is seen protruding in the chest cavity. Normally, the torso is partitioned into two parts by the diaphragm (a dome shaped internal skeletal muscle). The lungs and the heart form the first part, while the second part contains the liver, stomach and the intestine. However, hiatal hernia sufferers have a part of the stomach coming out through the diaphragm and entering the chest cavity. This unnatural protrusion of the stomach in the chest gives a feeling of heartburn and is accompanied by belching and rib pain. Carrying heavy objects, hard coughing or vomiting are some of the common reasons behind hiatal hernia.
Treatment: People suffering from hiatus hernia experience chest pain and other heartburn symptoms. Lifestyle changes such as having frequent small meals, retiring to bed 3 hours after meals and avoiding foods that worsen heartburn may help to manage hiatus hernia effectively. If nothing works, surgical intervention may be needed to relocate the stomach back to its original position.
A sudden onset of pain in lower left rib area can also be a sign of indigestion. A heavy lunch followed by excessive burping is a symptom of indigestion, which can cause rib pain. Overeating can also lead to belching gas buildup in the stomach and cause left rib pain.
Treatment: Apart from taking elaborate meals, lack of physical activity is often responsible for causing digestion problems. For a healthy digestion, besides eating in moderation, regular exercise is very important. Also, after having a heavy meal, you need to keep a time gap of 2-3 hours before you hit the sack. Short walks after meals can also contribute in improving digestion.
Constipation is a condition that causes hardening of stools, due to which bowel movement becomes a painful activity. In such circumstances, to push the stools, through the colon requires more effort. Thus eliminating hard stools can put undue strain on any part of the rib cage. It is observed that people suffering from constipation have to exert a lot of pressure to eliminate fecal matter and this may cause discomfort on the left or right side of the ribs.
Treatment: Drinking plenty of water and following a high fiber diet is a time-honored way to ensure smooth bowel movement. So, eating raw vegetables (salads) and fruits everyday complemented with adequate fluid intake can work wonders to keep constipation at bay.
An injury that is a result of a blow to the left rib cage can also trigger pain in lower left rib. Sports related injuries, involving the ribs in games like rugby, wrestling, soccer and American football are common. Trauma such as falling on the chest can also injure the ribs. Chest injuries may lead to broken ribs, meaning (in most cases) cracks develop in the injured ribs. The pain experienced may be dull or intense, depending upon the severity of the injury.
Treatment: People with broken ribs may recover within 5-6 weeks without any medical intervention. Although formation of cracks in the ribs may not be a serious issue, it is painful. In such a scenario, one can take over the counter painkillers such as acetaminophen to relieve discomfort. Also, take adequate rest and avoid any activity that puts strain on the damaged muscles. Application of ice pack can also help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with broken ribs.
Coughing or sneezing too hard sends jerks that travel all the way down to the ribs. Depending upon the intensity of the jerk, it can cause a crack or a minor bruise in the specific part of the rib cage. Rib fractures have been reported after frequent episodes of coughing in people suffering from pneumonia or severe cold.
Treatment: One of the best ways to alleviate coughing is to gargle with salt water. This may provide immediate relief from frequent episodes of cough. Use of OTC cough syrups may also help to ease a bad cough. However, you need to address the underlying cause of cough to get long-lasting relief.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Left abdominal pain under ribs can also be the consequence of diseases like IBS. IBS is a condition that affects the normal functioning of the intestine and causes diarrhea, constipation, gas and lower abdominal pain under rib cage.
Treatment: As the cause is not identified, treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms. So, the medications will be prescribed depending upon the symptoms that may occur. For instance, anti-diarrheal medicines such as loperamide may be given to stop diarrhea. Dietary changes such as avoiding gas producing foods are also necessary to control IBS symptoms.