Pain in Right Side Under Ribs: Causes and When You Must see a Doctor

Pain in Right Side Under Ribs

Pain in the right side under your ribs can make you worry, especially if the pain is sharp, stabbing, and comes on suddenly. Sometimes, pain under the right ribs can feel like dull aches that seem to gnaw at your upper abdomen. Even though cardiac-related chest pain usually feels like a squeezing sensation on the left side, pain that is felt under your right ribs should not be ignored.

Most of the time pain in the right side under your ribs is nothing to worry about. Strained chest or rib muscles, indigestion, or even just trapped gas can cause acute pain that comes on suddenly and causes aches.

It’s also important to remember that the right side of your rib cage protects organs like the liver, right lung, right kidney, gallbladder, and pancreas. Inflammation or disease in these organs can cause intense burning pain under your right ribs. In some cases, pain from the right side of your rib cage can radiate to your back, upper abdomen, or even your shoulder.

In some cases, treating rib pain on your right side involves natural methods to relieve the discomfort. Very often, a hot or cold compress can do wonders to alleviate mild pain without painkillers. If discomfort under your right ribs is from your digestive system or internal organ, then in some cases, changes to your diet can help to ease painful symptoms.

Symptoms of Pain in the Right Side Under Ribs

Knowing exactly what is causing aches and pains under your right ribs can be a challenge even for doctors. The book Clinical Methods says that chest pain is one of the most common reasons why a person visits their doctor. However, because there can be many reasons for right-sided pain in the chest or upper abdomen, doctors will ask about the patient’s symptoms.1

Some common symptoms of different types of pain in the right side under the ribs can include:

  • Burning sensation after eating in the upper chest caused by digestive problems
  • Intense sharp pain under the right-hand side of the back ribs that radiates to the groin due to kidney or gallbladder stones
  • Pain under your ribs and the area is tender to touch
  • Sharp pain under your right or left rib that is accompanied by a cough and gets worse when you breathe deeply
  • Mild to severe right rib pain in your back that wraps around to the center of your chest
  • Heart pain that radiates to the right side of the chest

Let’s look in more detail at the most common causes of pain in the right side of your chest under or below your ribs.

Common Causes of Pain in the Right Side Under Rib Cage

In many cases the right sided rib pain is a result of a strained chest muscle or a rib injury.

Injury to your right rib cage or pulling a chest muscle

Blunt trauma or cracking a rib on the right side of your chest will cause mild to agonizing right sided pain.

Doctors from the Victoria State Government say that the severity of rib pain depends much on the type of injury. A cracked rib on your right chest will usually be sore when you move your upper body, move your right arm, or cough. Damage to the chest muscles and ligaments can also be a source of right-sided or left-sided rib pain. This may be accompanied by extreme tenderness and difficulties breathing.17

Usually, applying a cold or heat pack for rib pain can help to alleviate the discomfort in your ribcage.

Because there is the chance that an injury to your ribs could damage internal organs, you should see a doctor if the trauma was severe and your rib pain doesn’t go away.

Intercostal muscle strain

The intercostal muscles are located between your ribs and wrap around your chest. Overstretching, throwing objects, or twisting your upper body can damage these muscles causing pain on the right side under the rib cage.

Doctors describe intercostal muscle strain as soft tissue injury of the rib cage. Any kind of strain to the muscle or ligaments on your right chest wall will result in right-side chest pain that can also radiate towards the back. You may also notice bruising around your ribs if the muscle pull was severe.17

Most medical professionals advise to get plenty of rest and avoid aggravating the injury to prevent rib pain from getting worse.

Digestive Issues Causing Pain in Right Side Under Ribs

Various digestive issues can cause mild to severe aches below your right or left ribs.


Trapped gas in your digestive system can cause sharp cramping pain in the right side under ribs or pain in your upper abdomen just below your left rib cage. Depending on the part of your intestines that are affected, the sharp gassy pains may just be felt on your right side.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that a common reason for gas that results in chest pains is eating gas-producing foods. This can result in a knotted feeling in your upper abdomen and you might only get relief from the discomfort by letting out the excess gas.2

Doctors say that you shouldn’t be too concerned if you pass a lot of gas. The average person passes wind up to 20 times a day. Along with gas causing a loud noise and smell, it can also cause any of the following symptoms:

  • Belching
  • A feeling of pressure in your abdomen
  • Bloating

One way to prevent suffering from the symptoms of trapped gas is to avoid foods that cause bloating and gas.

Indigestion or heartburn (acid reflux)

Digestive upset can cause indigestion that may result in burning pains in the right side under your ribs or discomfort in the left side of the abdomen.

For example, Dr.  John P. Cunha on eMedicineHealth says that indigestion can cause varying degrees of abdominal pain. In some cases, heartburn (acid reflux) can create a burning sensation and pain under your ribs, or indigestion can cause gas pains.3

Other signs of indigestion can include:

Indigestion can be a result of many things like a side effect of medication, eating fatty foods, an underlying medical condition, or anxiety and stress. If you suffer from indigestion, please read my article on how to kick start your digestive system to make it work better.


Another digestive problem that can result in right-sided pain under your ribs is constipation. Hard stool that builds up in your colon can cause abdominal pain that can also affect your lower chest.

A case from 1998 reported on a boy whose breathing problems and chest pains were caused by impacted fecal matter. When the boy was able to pass the hard stool, the symptoms of chest and abdominal pain went away. The doctors reported that constipation is common, but under-reported, cause of chest pain.4

If you suffer from constipation, then you could try some natural laxatives to make bowel movements easier.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

People with irritable bowel syndrome often suffer from pain in their gut or chest. The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology reported that IBS causes a lot of digestive pain and discomfort. Among the symptoms commonly reported by IBS sufferers are:5

  • Chest pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping

The Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology reported that non-cardiac chest pain is more likely the result of IBS than other causes.6

You can find many helpful home remedies for IBS on this website. These include drinking aloe vera juice, taking peppermint oil capsules, or adding probiotics to your diet.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammation in your digestive tract can cause many unpleasant symptoms including pain below your right breast or discomfort in your left chest.

Two forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These digestive conditions are characterized by abdominal pain and cramping, passing bloody stools, and diarrhea after eating.

According to the journal Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine, irritable bowel syndrome can affect the airways and affect breathing. Very often, blocked bronchi can cause irritation in the chest that results in chest pain. In fact, a dry cough, shortness of breath, a pleuritic chest pain were all reported as related symptoms to IBD.7

Pain Under Ribs in the Right Side Due to Internal Organs

Gallbladder issues

You will have severe constant pain on your right side under your ribs if you have inflammation in your gallbladder or gallstones.

Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet says that your gallbladder is located in your upper right quadrant just below your right rib cage. Gallbladder pain is felt just under your ribs and is caused by a buildup of cholesterol and other matter that form into gallstones. The pain from your right side may spread and cause pain in your right shoulder blade or middle of your right back under your ribs.8

Other symptoms of gallstones can include:

  • Sudden pressure that quickly builds up in your upper right abdomen
  • A constant mild ache that lasts for a few hours
  • Tenderness in your abdominal area under your right rib cage
  • Signs of an infection like a fever, nausea, chills, or vomiting

Problems with your gallbladder can also affect your pancreas and cause pancreatitis.


Your pancreas is located near your gallbladder under your right rib cage, and pancreatitis can cause pain under your right ribs or left ribs.

According to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on eMedicineHealth, inflammation of the pancreas usually causes upper abdominal pain on the left side. The aches and pain usually start gradually before becoming more intense. A symptom of pancreatic pain is increased abdominal aching after eating that lasts a few days. The pain may also radiate to your middle back and cause abdominal tenderness.8  

However, doctors from Cedars-Sinai say that pancreatitis can also cause pain in right side under the ribs.9

Doctors advise that to help ease left-sided pain or upper right pain under your ribs or caused by pancreatitis you should avoid all alcohol, eat a bland diet, and stop smoking.

Kidney stones

Severe excruciating pain in your right back or area just below your ribs could be caused by kidney stones. Kidney stones are small mineral deposits that form in the kidneys and cause terrible pain when they move through your urinary tract.

According to the book Informed Health Online, although kidney stones are tiny, they cause intense flank and abdominal pain. The pain will be felt in the area of your urinary tract were the stone is located. If kidney stones are in your right kidney, you may feel sudden severe pain below your right rib cage. However, the intense pain from kidney stones may radiate throughout your abdominal region.10

With some people, aching kidney stone pain on one side of their flank or the other side may come and go in waves. Doctors from the National Health Service say that other symptoms of kidney stones can include any of the following:11

Mix 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink regularly to get rid of kidney stones. The acidic nature of apple cider vinegar helps to dissolve the stones to make them pass easier. You should also increase your fluid intake to help flush out the kidney stones and keep your kidneys healthy.

Liver disease

The largest part of your liver is located in your upper right abdomen under your ribs. Although the liver itself doesn’t become sore, inflammation or disease in your liver stretches the tissues surrounding your liver causing pain under your right ribcage.

Hepatitis is a disease of the liver. The journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences says that upper abdominal pain is a common symptom of hepatitis. Many scientists say that upper abdominal pain may be worse after meals and is common with many chronic liver diseases.12

To look after your health, it’s important to avoid habits that are detrimental to your liver.


Your appendix is located in your lower-right abdomen and can cause severe abdominal pain on your right side.

Appendicitis pain starts out as dull aches behind your belly button that come and go. As the appendix becomes more inflamed, intense pain will develop on your right side between your hip and below your ribs.

Doctors from the Health Direct Australia say that appendicitis pain will also cause tenderness in your lower right abdomen. This may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is important to seek emergency medical care for any intense pains in your lower right abdomen because appendicitis can be life-threatening.13

Other Causes of Pain on Right Side Below Ribs

Issues with your right lung

Pain under the right side of your ribs may be connected with problems to do with your right lung. If you have severe chest pains on your right side or left side along with breathing difficulties, you should call a doctor immediately.

Let’s look at some of the common lung problems that can cause pain under the right rib cage.


Pneumonia can cause sharp jabbing pains in the right side under your ribs if your right lung is affected.

Pneumonia is inflammation of the lung tissue and is generally caused by a viral or bacterial respiratory infection. Pneumonia can cause symptoms similar to those of bronchitis. According to Dr. Laurence Knott, pneumonia can cause sharp pains on one side of the chest. This is usually accompanied by the following symptoms:14


Your lung is protected by layers of tissue called the pleura, and inflammation in your right pleura can cause a sharp pain behind your right ribs.

Dr. George Schiffman on MedicineNet explains that sharp chest pain is the most common of pleurisy. Usually, pleurisy pain becomes worse when you breathe and may become intense deep chest pain with deep breaths. Pleurisy may also cause pain in the thoracic region of your back.15

To avoid infections and inflammation of your lungs, it’s important to include in your diet foods that help to cleanse your lungs.

Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)

Air that gets into the space between your lung and chest wall can cause the lung to collapse resulting in one-sided sharp chest pain that comes on suddenly.

Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that genetics, chronic smoking, or certain diseases can cause a lung to collapse. This feels like jabbing chests pains that intensify when you breathe deeply. Depending on the severity of pneumothorax, the pain may spread to your back or shoulder.16

Can Right Side Pain Under Ribs be Heart-Related?

Because your heart is located on the left side of your chest, most cardiac pain causes pain in the left side of your ribcage. The most common sign of a heart attack is a sensation of extreme pressure in the chest that radiates to the left arm.

Does heart-related pain sometimes cause pain in the right side under the ribs? Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that squeezing chest pains of a heart attack can affect either arm. Dr. Conrad Stöppler says that heart attack symptoms can occur on the right side of the chest and right arm.18

When to See a Doctor

Even though most of the reasons for pain in your ribcage are not related to your heart, you should never ignore chest pain. Unexplained chest pain that feels like pressure that comes and goes in waves or is sudden and sharp can be a symptom of a serious condition.

According to Dr. Colin Tidy on, you should see your doctor for pain under your ribs in the following circumstances:19

  • Feeling of tightness or squeezing in your chest that radiates to the right or left side of your ribs.
  • Chest pain that spreads to your neck, jaw, or either arm.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Pain in your rib cage that doesn’t go away with resting.
  • Left or right rib pain that was caused by a traumatic injury.
  • Pain under your ribs that is accompanied by chills, nausea, and/or vomiting.

Read these related articles

Medical References

  1. NCBI. Chest pain or discomfort.
  2. MayoClinic. Gas and gas pains.
  3. eMedicineHealth. Indigestion causes and treatments.
  4. Pediatr Pulmonol.1998 Sep;26(3):222-3.
  5. J Clin Gastroenterol.2007 Mar;41(3):264-9.
  6. Scand J Gastroenterol.1993 Jul;28(7):585-90.
  7. Multidiscip Respir Med. 2010; 5(3): 173–182.
  8. eMedicineHealth. Pancreatitis.
  9. Cedars-Sinai. FAQ Pancreatic and biliary diseases.
  10. NCBI. Kidney stones: overview.
  11. NHS. Kidney stones.
  12. Dig Dis Sci.2003 Oct;48(10):1914-8.
  13. HealthDirect. Appendicitis symptoms.
  14. PatientInfo. Pneumonia.
  15. MedicineNet. Pleurisy.
  16. Cleveland Clinic. Lung: collapsed lung.
  17. BetterHealth. Rib injuries.
  18. MedicineNet. 12 heart attack symptoms.
  19. PatientInfo. Chest pain.

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