The rib cage of human body is made of 12 pairs of bones arranged in circular fashion. Ribs are nothing but curved bones that cover the vital organs like heart and lungs. These 12 pairs of bones can be grouped into 3 types namely true ribs (first 7 pairs), false ribs (8,9th pairs) and finally the floating ribs (10-12th pairs). All these together constitute to form the rib cage. The main function of rib cage is to protect the underlying organs like heart and lungs from injury.
In addition it assists the lungs in breathing. The rib cage moves up and down facilitating inhaling and exhaling action of the lungs. The rib cage also covers organs like spleen, stomach and kidneys in it. Any injury or damage caused in the underlying organs can cause pain in the ribs. The left rib cage pain occurs due to various causes ranging from indigestion to respiratory disorders. Do not hesitate to seek medical help if you have left rib cage pain with discomfort for more than 2 days. Your doctor is the right person to diagnose the problem. Treatment for left rib cage pain depends on the causative factor. In most of the cases the pain can be managed with painkillers and stretching exercises.
Pain Under Left Rib Cage Symptoms :
Pain in the left rib cage can start slowly and proceed to cause intense sharp pain. For some people pain can be sudden and sharp. Pain in the rib cage can vary from mild to severe excruciating pain. For many people dull pain can be felt in the left side of the abdomen due to indigestion. It can also cause chest pain when acid and other enzymes from the stomach are pushed up into the esophagus causing burning pain and irritation.
Pain in the left rib cage can be felt in many parts of the body depending on the cause. If you have sharp pain in the throat with burning chest pain it can be due to acid reflux. Pain may start from your back slowly progressing towards front portion of the body, if it caused by kidney stones. Sharp excruciating pain in the left rib cage can be due to angina pectoris or heart attack which is often associated with other signals like profuse sweating, increased heartbeat and the pain shifts towards left shoulder and arm.
Pain Under Left Rib Cage Causes :
Any pain in the left rib cage need not be a heart attack all the time. It can be due to simple reasons like acidity or indigestion.
- Indigestion – Eating excess of acidic foods and large volumes of food can cause left rib cage pain. Function of stomach gets slowed down due to overeating and starts building up gases in the colon. Trapped up gases can exert pressure on the stomach causing sharp pain in the left rib cage.
- Collapsed Lung – Sometimes, air gets leaked in the spaces between the chest wall and lungs causing rupture of lung membrane (pneumothorax). This is a very rare condition causing sudden sharp pain in the left rib cage and breathing difficulty. This can occur without any reason also.
- GERD – Acid reflux disease can force acids and other digestive enzymes into the esophagus causing heartburn and pain in the left rib cage. Often pain is largely felt in the thorax region.
- Kidney Stones – Kidney stones are largely formed when you are not passing urine for long time. Urine gets concentrated and hard allowing some minerals to crystallize. When these stones move into the ureter (tube that connects kidney and bladder) it can cause severe pain in the left rib cage. Usually such pain starts in your back and spreads to the lower stomach and groin. The person may have urgent need to urinate and may have other symptoms like nausea/vomiting.
- Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas is called as pancreatitis which can cause severe (sudden) pain in the left rib cage. Pain can shift towards your back and pain worsens when you eat or drink something.
- Costochondritis – Sometimes rib cage may suffer from viral infection causing sharp pain in the left rib cage. The process of cartilages of the sternum getting inflamed is known as costochondritis. Pain caused by this problem resembles that of an attack. This can cause intense pain in the chest and it may become worse as you cough or take up deep breath. Costochondritis is nothing serious even if the symptoms are worse.
- Splenic Flexure – Sometimes increased volume of gases can get trapped in the colon bends located near the spleen. This can cause intense pain in the left rib-cage with other signs like distension of abdomen, strange sound from the upper abdomen and constipation or abdominal cramps. The pain worsens when you sit down and improves when standing up.
- Splenomegaly – Inflammation of spleen is known as splenomegaly. Certain infections like mononucleosis and liver problems may lead to enlargement of spleen. This can cause sharp pain in the left rib cage spreading to your back and shoulders. In addition there can be other symptoms like bloated feeling, tiredness, fever, indigestion and hiccups.
- Broken Ribs – If you experience sudden fall from bike or you are subjected to sharp blow on your chest, it can cause damage of ribs. This can cause considerable pain of left side rib cage. Any injury or fracture on the ribs can certainly cause sharp pain which worsens when you take deep breath.
- Respiratory Problems – Severe lung infections like pneumonia and other lung disorders can cause left rib cage pain. Here the symptoms of infection would precede rib pain.
- Angina Pectoris – Heart attack or angina can, of course, cause severe pain in the chest wall. But it may cause related symptoms like shortness of breath, increased palpitation and teeth pain. There are people who get an attack without any symptoms also.
Your doctor will complete physical examination by paying close attention to your rib-cage. He will collect your medical history and order for chest X-ray and other related tests based on your symptoms.
Diagnosis is important before attempting to treat left rib cage pain. Often no treatment is required for rib cage pain since it resolves automatically in few days. If you have severe pain with other symptoms or if the pain does not improve after couple of days, then you need to check with your doctor.
- Medications – Over the counter drugs like Ibuprofen or paracetomol can help in reducing pain. You can take antacids to get relief from pain if it is due to acidity or indigestion.
- Surgery – In rare cases surgical intervention is needed for left rib cage pain. If the imaging test results confirm injury or broken ribs or if the cause of pain is splenomegaly your doctor may have to operate it.
Lifestyle Changes :
Choose a healthy diet plan. Avoid eating excess of acidic foods and fatty items since it can cause serious health problems and obesity. Watch what you eat and how much you eat. This simple technique will prevent most of the health issues.
You need not panic if you experience any sharp pain in the left rib cage since it is not always an attack. Often pain would get resolved in few days if the reasons are mild. You need to check your GP if you have additional worrying symptoms. With prompt treatment and medications left rib cage pain can be treated and managed.