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Why do rib cramps and how to treat them

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Cramps frequently occur in the lower limbs. However, in the ribs, they can also be evidenced. They occur for different reasons. They often appear unexpectedly and at any time of the day or night, and their duration is usually a few minutes or a few seconds.

The causes that give rise to cramps in the ribs vary according to age, the physical activity you practice, the intake of liquids or food, and even being overweight. Next, in this FastlyHealarticle, you will have all the information about why they give rib cramps and how to treat them.

Advanced age

Age is a factor that increases the risk of rib cramps. Older adults lose muscle mass, so the remaining muscle can be more easily overextended, causing cramps in the ribs and other parts of the body.


In this case, to prevent cramps, it is advisable to follow these indications:

  • Lower the intensity of the exercises that are practiced.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and beverages that contain potassium, especially at the end of physical activity.
  • Stay away from consuming some substances, such as caffeine and nicotine.

With these recommendations, you will help reduce or eliminate the appearance of rib cramps.


The fluid loss is a hallmark of the practice of some physical activity, such as those engaged in warm climates. Some athletes and tired to the point of reaching dehydration. This can trigger cramps in the ribs and other parts of the body.


You must maintain a good daily water intake and hydrate abundantly during sports activity to avoid the loss of fluid and electrolytes, which is what causes the appearance of muscle cramps.

Rib cramps during pregnancy

Women often have pain and cramps in the ribs in late pregnancy, specifically on the right side under the breasts. As gestation signs, progress and the uterus’ size increases, the woman’s ribs are compressed to readjust to the free space between the thorax and the abdominal cavity.


Posture should be corrected to help reduce compression. Yoga practice during pregnancy alleviates this discomfort in addition to providing rest. The pain will disappear completely once the baby is born.


Being overweight and obese are frequent causes of rib cramps due to increased pressure in the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity due to the accumulation of fat and compression of the organs present in both holes.


The first thing you should do is change your eating habits and practice sports or do some physical exercise daily to burn more calories. Similarly, it is necessary to maintain weight control by specialized personnel such as a nutritionist.

Diseases that can cause rib cramps

The suffering of some diseases can cause cramps in the ribs. Some are diabetes, kidney failure, liver disease, and thyroid disorders.

Each of them can contribute to dehydration, loss of fluids, electrolytes, such as sodium or potassium, and alterations in metabolism, among others.


When some of the diseases mentioned above cause rib cramps, you should consult your specialist doctor. He will indicate the treatment to follow in each of them.

Disturbance in blood supply

The arteries, which are responsible for carrying blood flow to different parts of the body, can be affected by the decrease in their caliber as a result of arteriosclerosis, which consists of the formation of an atheromatous plaque in the wall of the vessel, which it can cause pain and cramping both in the ribs and elsewhere.


Treatment will also be aimed at controlling cholesterol and improving the vessel’s lumen. A surgical procedure known as angioplasty, previously recommended by a specialist, will be used when necessary.

Nervous compression

Nerve compression caused by a spinal cord injury or a pinched nerve in the neck or back can lead to rib cramps. The practice of physical activity with nerve compression can increase the frequency of appearance of these discomforts.


To treat this alteration, specialist doctors and physiotherapists must indicate the practice exercises that help decompress the nerve. This is accompanied by applying heat and cold and drug treatment with analgesics and anti-inflammatories that relieve pain.

Low electrolyte levels

The decrease in some electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, can cause the appearance of cramps in the ribs and other parts of the body, such as the legs. This is due to the loss of fluid due to physical activity, a diet low in these nutrients, or the lack of fluid intake according to the needs and activities you perform.


The replacement of electrolytes will be the treatment indicated by the doctor when there are low levels of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. This can be done orally or intravenously, depending on the patient’s condition.

A diet rich in potassium and calcium is another way to restore low electrolyte levels.

Taking some medications

Consumption of some medications such as:

  • Diuretics: used to increase diuresis to treat high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.
  • Beta-blockers: their use is intended to treat high blood pressure or arrhythmia, as they control blood pressure and slow down the heart rate.
  • Statins or fibrates: these are drugs used to treat high cholesterol.
  • Beta2 agonists: they work as bronchodilators that help relax the smooth muscles of the bronchi, allowing better breathing.


If rib cramps occur after taking these medications, you should consult your doctor, who will be in charge of adjusting the dose or changing them to others that do not cause these effects.

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 Why, do rib cramps and how to treat them, we recommend that you enter our Bones, Joints, and Muscles category.

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