Pain under the left side of the rib cage is experienced by many people around the world, even by those in sound health otherwise. The reason for such pain can be varied, from injuries, serious disorders to some underlying medical condition. In this article, let us explore the various reasons for pain under the left rib cage and possible treatment options.
The rib cage, also known as the thoracic cage, is one of the core and most delicate parts of the human skeletal system. 24 bony structures called ribs, costal cartilages, 12 thoracic vertebrae and the sternum, all are parts that comprise the rib cage. A part of the human respiratory system, this bony and cartilaginous structure surrounds the thoracic cavity, which contains the lungs. It is a vital part of the human body and any pain in this region can be of serious concern, as it may indicate some serious medical condition or injury.
Reasons for Pain Under the Left Rib
Cracked or fractured rib caused by accidents or severe blow/impact in that area, is one of the major reasons for pain under the left rib cage. It causes excruciating pain that aggravates with deep breathing. Such a serious injury needs immediate medical intervention. If you are experiencing such pain, it is always wise to get an x-ray done to determine the state.
Treatment: If diagnosed with a serious cracked or broken rib, it is advisable to consult a doctor immediately and get a surgery scheduled. You should also get a CT or MRI scan done to rule out any nerve damage. If the crack is minor, it usually heals on its own in a month or two. You can use pain killers to relieve the pain. In any case, it is important to consult your doctor first.
Costochondritis is a condition wherein the cartilages connecting the ribs with the breast bone are infected and inflamed. It is caused due to a viral infection, and it causes sharp gnawing pain under the left rib cage, more so while breathing deeply. The symptoms of costochondritis are often confused with that of a heart attack. Medical examination can help diagnose the situation.
Treatment: In case of a mild costochondritis, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin can help. If the condition in chronic or severe, then opioid drugs like hydrocodone or oxycodone, or antidepressant medication like amitriptyline, may be used. It is advisable to take plentiful of rest and restrain from any stressful activity while recovering from this condition.
Another common but less severe cause of pain under the left rib cage is heartburn or acid reflux. It is often caused when you consume too much acidic food or drinks. It often gives a bloated feeling and a sharp pain that feels like chest ache.
Treatment: This condition can be treated by medications like Lansoprazole, Esomeprazole or Dexlansoprazole. It is also wise to avoid food that causes heartburn or acid reflux.
Sometimes, pain under the left rib cage may be caused due to tear or rupture of the spleen. Pain in the extreme ends of the shoulders may also be a sign of spleen rupture.
Treatment: It is important to consult a doctor if you experience such symptoms. Medication may help in the condition, but if left untreated for long, it might need surgical intervention.
Also known as the splenic flexure syndrome, it is another cause of pain under the left rib cage. Excessive gas gets trapped in the colon and it causes pain and discomfort.
Treatment: Avoiding food that causes indigestion is advisable. You can also try leaning on the back of a chair to get rid of the trapped gases. Antacid tablets, along with dietary changes, will help in the condition.
Pneumothorax is a condition where the lung ruptures due to a tear in the lung membrane, and air leaks out and fills the cavity between the lungs and the rib cage.
Treatment: This condition needs immediate medical intervention. Usually, surgery is the only option.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common cause of pain under the left rib cage. It is caused by overeating or lack of fiber-rich foods, and sufficient water in the diet. In this condition, the digestive organs are affected as they are not able to secrete digestive enzymes that help in the breaking down of food into simple substances. It disrupts the normal bowel movement by causing constipation or diarrhea. Other symptoms of this condition are bloating and cramps in the intestine.
Treatment: Proper high-fiber diet along with use of laxatives is recommended for treating this syndrome.
Pain in left side of the rib cage might also be an indicator of the presence of stomach ulcer. Depending on the severity of the condition, the discomfort may last longer or many subside in a few minutes.
Treatment: Antibiotics prescribed by a physician can heal the ulcer and help to get relieved of the symptoms.
Constipation is characterized by hardening of stools. As a result, more pressure and effort needs to be put in, to pass stools. It leads to irritating pain in the stomach, more so under the rib cage. Indigestion is also another common reason for the pain. A pain that starts suddenly can be linked to indigestion. It is usually preceded by constant burping.
Treatment: Proper diet and avoiding food that causes indigestion and constipation would help in relieving the pain. High fiber diet is recommended if you are suffering from constipation.
Kidney stones can originate in either of the kidneys and cause pain in them. Pain in the left one signifies stone in the left kidney. The pain generally starts from the back and spreads to the front.
Treatment: You must consult a doctor immediately, and post diagnosis, get the treatment for removal of the stones, if necessary.
Another reason for pain under the left rib cage is gastritis. Gastritis is caused due to erosion of the stomach lining. It may also happen due to a bacterial infection. The wall lining of the stomach gets inflamed and swells up. The digestive system is disrupted and the person vomits frequently, which in turn induces pain under the left rib.
Treatment: Taking antacids and other drugs to reduce stomach acid can be of help. Avoiding hot and spicy food is a must.
Diverticulitis is characterized by small, bulging sacs or pouches of the inner lining of the intestine (diverticulosis) that become infected. It generally affects elderly people, about the age of 60. People suffering from it experience bloating, constipation and pain under the lower rib cage.
Treatment: Proper diet along with medication prescribed by a doctor will help in the condition. Once the sacs in the intestines are formed, they will stay for a lifetime. Changes in lifestyle is important to get relief.
► Bowel Obstruction
Bowel obstruction is a partial or total blockage of the intestines, caused due to intertwining of the intestines. It causes acute pain and discomfort under the lower rib cage. Other symptoms are constipation, vomiting and irregular stool.
Treatment: You should consult your doctor immediately. An abdominal CT scan and X-Ray will confirm if you are suffering from this condition. Treatment generally involves insertion of a pipe through the nose till the intestines. If necessary, surgery might be needed.
So, we see that pain under the left rib cage can be caused due to various reasons, from gastric problems to inflammation of cartilage or other serious medical conditions. Depending on the cause, the treatment will vary. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor immediately. A timely diagnosis will help you to exact the cause, get effective treatment and avoid future complications.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.