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Pain between the ribs: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

For many, chest pain is a cause for alarm: the ribs are part of this cavity. For this reason, any discomfort that causes pain in the sternum usually warns that something is happening and needs a revision.

Among the possible causes of pain between the ribs, the most frequent is making a lousy movement or an inadequate posture on a load. Chest pain can also appear as a result of a trauma or car accident and cardiovascular or respiratory pathologies that can trigger pain in the sternum, among other symptoms.

Next, you will learn a little more about the causes of the rib pain. To do this, we invite you to read this article by FastlyHealwhere you will clarify all your doubts about pain between the ribs: causes and treatment.

Causes of rib pain

Possible causes of pain between the ribs include the following:


One of the most common causes of sternum pain is anxiety. Stress can affect different parts of the body, and the most common are chest pain, as it is related to cardiorespiratory problems.

When we suffer from anxiety, we feel this pain for various reasons :

  • The heart races, tachycardias, and palpitations appear.
  • The rate of breathing is increased, which can cause muscle tension in the ribs.
  • When under pressure, muscles can produce punctures.

Learn more about this cause of Anxiety chest pain: symptoms and what to do to relieve it.


Trauma can result from a hit with a blunt object or a car accident with a dramatic fall. Chest pain present in trauma is characterized by:

Striking rib pain can also be accompanied by rib fissure, fracture, and Costochondritis.

Rib fissure

This alteration is not only presented by trauma. A solid and sustained cough can also deliver it for many days, causing cracks.

These fissures can become fractures, which are evident by the intense pain of coughing.

If you need more information, you can consult How to know if I have a cracked or broken rib.

Rib fracture

It is produced by the rupture of one of the ribs or several due to trauma. The rib pain that occurs is stabbing, similar to a stab in the ribs. It is a characteristic pain, so it is straightforward to make the diagnosis.


This alteration is about the inflammation of the cartilage responsible for joining the rib with the sternum, and it is evident by the inflammation of the area. Also, sternum pain worsens with breathing, as Costochondritis also causes pain between the ribs when breathing.

Learn more about Costochondritis: symptoms and treatment.

Rib pain without trauma

When there is no history of trauma, the pain between the ribs is presented by a significant mechanical overload, that is, by performing an exercise or taking a high weight. This is frequently seen in people who practice physical activity without due protection.

Angina pectoris

This condition is caused by oxygen deficiency in the heart. This cardiorespiratory disorder is characterized by chest pain behind the breastbone and can also radiate to the left arm, shoulder, and jaw.

Heart attack

This alteration, known as myocardial infarction, can present as pain between the ribs on the left side, right in the thoracic cavity where the heart is located.

This is produced by the obstruction of the coronary artery, which by reducing the oxygen in the heart muscle, causes an injury to the muscle tissue that can lead to death. It is essential to treat it immediately.


It is an infection and inflammation of the tissue that lines the heart. It is identified by pain in the chest in the central part. It starts suddenly and does not last long. It is an acute condition and can cause pain reflected between the ribs.


An inflammatory type disorder affects the pleura, a thin layer that lines the lungs. This pain occurs at the moment of inspiration since it is when the lung fills with air and the inflamed pleura rubs against the other organs that are close to it, producing pain between the ribs.

Other causes of pain between the ribs

These possible causes of pain between the ribs are less common, but it is also essential to identify them:


Fibromyalgia is a disease that causes pain in different parts of the body. It does not have a specific origin and occurs at any age. To know that it is this disease, particular tests must be carried out many times. It is not possible to identify the cause of pain in the sternum through the symptoms.

Pulmonary embolism

The development of a pulmonary embolism is serious. It is usually evidenced when an artery in the lung is blocked by a clot, causing the following symptoms:

  • Pain when breathing of solid intensity.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Coughing up blood
  • Increased sweating.

Lung cancer

This alteration can be confused with pain between the ribs, observed when breathing. However, other symptoms can be sudden weight loss and back pain.

To learn more about lung cancer, you can see Lung Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.

Symptoms of pain between the ribs

If you feel pain between your ribs, this pain may also be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Sudden onset chest pain.
  • Trauma or heart disorders.
  • Hematoma at the site of pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest pain when coughing.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating

Treating pain between the ribs

The presence of pain between the ribs is an indication that you should see a doctor immediately. The specialist in these cases is the orthopedic surgeon. Depending on the cause of the pain in the sternum, he will be in charge of indicating the treatment to be followed by a physiotherapist.

Here are some treatments for rib pain, but you must go to the doctor as quickly as possible since these treatments are indicative, and each case is different:

Trauma treatment

In the case of trauma, the first thing the doctor will recommend is rest so that the muscles recover quickly and the placement of cold compresses.

If the pain is very intense and you have difficulty breathing, it is essential to go to a health center where they will perform a chest X-ray test and thus start treatment according to the established diagnosis.

Costochondritis treatment

When the pain between the ribs is due to Costochondritis, the doctor will indicate:

  • Rest for 2 or 3 days.
  • Applying warm compresses to the pain site.
  • Analgesics and anti-inflammatories according to the intensity of the symptoms.

Treatment of pleurisy

In cases of pleurisy, treatment will be based on intravenous and anti-inflammatory antibiotics, accompanied by respiratory therapy for two weeks.

Treatment of cardiovascular problems

Suppose the pain between the ribs that you present is due to cardiovascular problems. In that case, these will be treated by the cardiologist, who will perform analyzes to make an accurate diagnosis and thus find the correct treatment.

Pulmonary embolism treatment

If your chest pain is a pulmonary embolism, it should be treated immediately at a health center. Treatment aims to remove the clot from the lung, allowing the free passage of blood.

Lung cancer treatment

In cancer cases, specialists with anticancer therapies will carry out the treatment with specialists.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Pain between the ribs: causes and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints, and Muscles category.

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