Rib pain can be described as dull, sharp or aching and experienced at or under the chest or overhead the navel on either side. This can manifest after an injury or without a possible cause.
The rib pain can be triggered from anything from a pulled muscle or a rib fracture. The pain can occur right away after injury or develop in a slow manner. It can also be an indication of an underlying health condition. If an individual experiences any unexplainable rib pain, consult a doctor right away.
Potential causes of rib pain
The usual causes of rib pain include pulled ribs or muscle. Other likely causes of pain in the rib cage include the following:
- Chest injuries
- Broken ribs
- Rib fractures
- Muscle spasms
- Diseases affecting the bones such as osteoporosis
- Inflamed rib cartilage
- Inflammation of the lining of the lungs
Management of rib pain
The suitable treatment for rib pain depends on the cause of the pain. In case the rib pain is triggered by a minor injury such as a bruise or pulled muscle, you can place a cold compress on the affected area to minimize the swelling. For intense pain, over-the-counter pain medications can be given.
For a rib fracture that causes pain that could not be controlled by over-the-counter medications, the doctor will prescribe pain medications. A compression wrap can also be used that is wrapped around the chest. The compression wrap holds the area securely to prevent further injury and pain.
If bone cancer is the reason for the pain, the doctor will discuss treatment measures based on the location of cancer whether it has spread or if there are any unusual growths. In some cases, surgery is required to get rid of abnormal growths.
When to seek medical care
If there is rib pain evident without movement or piercing pain while breathing in or moving to a certain position, it is best to set an appointment with a doctor for further assessment.
A doctor should be consulted right away if there is intense pain while breathing in or moving the body into a specific position or there is difficulty breathing. If there is pressure or chest pain with rib cage discomfort, seek immediate care since these might be indications of an impending heart attack.
Call for emergency assistance if the individual recently fallen and has difficulty and pain upon breathing along with evident bruising in the chest region.
The rib pain from muscle strains or sprains can be prevented by stretching the muscles, using exercise equipment properly and keeping the body hydrated. In case a respiratory condition such as COPD or cancer is the cause for the pain, it is vital to get enough rest and follow the treatment plan given by the doctor.
There are also self-care measures that can prevent pain such as the application of an ice pack on the affected area or taking hot baths to relax the body.