Pain Under Right Rib Cage: Causes and When to See a Doctor

Pain Under Right Rib Cage

Feeling any kind of pain under your right rib cage can be a very worrying experience. Because there are many vital organs protected by the right rib cage, you should never ignore any kind of chest pain or upper abdomen aches. Many people may also be concerned about a heart attack if they feel sharp, stabbing pains in their rib cage. However, it’s only on rare occasions that pains under the right rib cage are heart-related.

There are many reasons for feeling pain on the right side of your upper body. Common causes of pain under the right rib cage are gallstones or gallbladder infection, kidney stones, liver disease, appendicitis, or gas. Pains in your chest could be connected with pneumonia, inflammation in your breastbone, injury to a rib, such as rib fracture, broken rib, bruised rib or pulled chest muscle. The right sided pain could be noticeable immediately after injuring your rib cage area or it can develop gradually over time. In some cases the pain may radiate to your back causing rib and back pain.

Depending on the cause of aches and pain on the right side under the rib cage, the pain could be a mild, dull pain that doesn’t go away. Or the chest pain could cause burning or aching discomfort that feels like something is squeezing your chest. Although not all types of pain under your right ribs are life-threatening, you should also have a doctor check out unexplained chest pain.

In this article, you will find out the many causes of pain that specifically affects the right side of your chest under your right rib cage.

Causes of Pain Under Right Rib Cage

Under your right rib cage are your liver, gallbladder, right kidney, and your right lung. Any inflammation or infection in these organs may cause pains in your back and upper abdomen. Because your heart is located in the middle of your chest, slightly to the left, heart-related pains usually cause pain under the left rib cage.


Sharp stabbing pains under your right rib cage that come on suddenly may be a sign of gallstones or gallbladder infection. The pain (which is associated with gallbladder attack) can also radiate to your upper back between the shoulder blades. According to Gastroenterologist, Dr. Jay W. Marks, gallbladder pain can be felt in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Your gallbladder is found in the upper right side of your abdomen just under your last rib and it works closely with your liver to break down food and aid digestion.

Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that gallstones can cause upper right abdominal pain under ribs for between 15 minutes and 24 hours. It’s not uncommon to experience constant pain for between 1 and 5 hours. Usually, moving around won’t help you get rid of gallstone pains and it may be difficult to take deep breaths.1

Apart from gallstones causing sharp pains in your right rib cage, the sudden sharp pains could also be a sign of inflammation of the gallbladder. Doctors from the National Health Service say that the severe and agonizing pain of a gallbladder infection can radiate and also cause pain in your right shoulder.2

In some cases, sharp upper right abdominal pain is one of the side effects of a gallbladder removal (cholecystectomy). After a gallbladder removal, you may need to follow a gallbladder removal diet to prevent post cholecystectomy side effects such as indigestion and weight gain.

Liver disease

Pain on the right side under the rib cage can sometimes be a symptom of liver disease. According to Dr. Gruvinder Rull on, liver disease that causes pain occurs when the capsule of the liver stretches.3 This is common if you suffer from congestive heart failure – a condition where the heart pumps blood weaker than normal and leads to fluid retention. This can also affect other organs in the body.4

One way to keep your liver healthy is knowing how to look after your liver health as well as consuming certain foods and herbs that will care for your liver. Another way is also avoiding these common habits that damage your liver.

Kidney stones

Sharp, intense pains below your right ribs that come and go could be caused by kidney stones. Kidney stones form from mineral deposits and salts in your kidneys. They can cause intense pain in the side, back, and upper abdomen (flank pain) when they move down through your urinary tract.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say that the severe abdominal pain can also spread to the groin area. The stones can cause pain when urinating and turn your urine a pinkish, red color. If your kidneys become infected, you may also have a fever and chills and have foul-smelling urine.5

There are many natural ways to prevent pain under your ribs caused by kidney stones. For example, in my article on what foods to eat for kidney health, you can find out how watermelons, lemon juice, apples, ginger, and pumpkin seeds help to your kidneys working well.

Another natural cure for kidney stones is apple cider vinegar. You should mix 1 to 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar in a glass or water and drink frequently throughout the day. The apple cider vinegar remedy helps dissolve the mineral buildup in your kidneys and prevent upper abdominal pain.


Although pancreas inflammation generally causes upper left abdominal pain, pancreatitis can also cause pain on the right side under your right ribs. The pain can also radiate into the back and may be aggravated by eating foods high in fat. Swollen and tender abdomen is another symptom of pancreatitis. Your pancreas works together with your gallbladder and liver to produce enzymes that assist in digestion.

Doctors from Cedars-Sinai say that gallstones can be a cause of pancreatitis. Another reason for pain radiating from your pancreas is drinking large amounts of alcohol or injury to the organ. Pancreatitis causes pain in the upper abdomen and can also be on the left-hand side or right-hand side under your ribs. Even mild pancreatitis can cause severe upper abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting.6

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that chronic pancreatitis will cause your stools to become oily and smelly.

If you experience severe pain under your ribs that doesn’t go away and is accompanied by fever, nausea, or vomiting, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.


A dull pain that becomes sharper below your right rib cage could be appendicitis. If your appendix becomes inflamed for any reason, you will usually feel sharp pain on the lower right side around the location of the appendix. Appendicitis is a serious condition and requires prompt medical attention because if the appendix ruptures it can be life-threatening.

Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD says that appendicitis pain usually starts near your belly button and becomes sharp and more intense as it moves to your right abdomen below your ribs. Along with the pain, you will probably have nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fever, and possible abdominal swelling.7

If you suspect that you have appendicitis, you should seek prompt medical help. Dr. Ratini advises against using pain remedies or antacids to relieve the pain because they can cause the appendix to rupture.


Gas can cause abdominal pain and discomfort on the right side under your right ribs. Gas can be caused by eating carbohydrate-rich foods like foods high in fiber, starchy foods, and dairy products. The buildup of gas in the digestive system can cause pain on the side of the body where the accumulation occurs.

According to Johns Hopkins, gas that builds up on the right side of the colon can cause pain that is similar to appendicitis or gallstones.8

There are many natural ways to prevent gas pain in chest. For example, in my article on home remedies to get rid of gas naturally, you can find out how to use peppermint, ginger, or chamomile tea to relieve pain and discomfort caused by gas.

Lung disease

There are various lung conditions that can cause pain under your right rib cage if your right lung is affected. If you have unexplained, intense pain under your ribs when breathing, you should call your doctor as soon as possible.

Here are some common reasons for lung issues that cause chest pain.


Pleurisy is caused when fluid builds up in between the two layers of tissue covering the lungs. The excess fluid around your lungs can cause pressure on your lung, resulting in sharp pain on the side of the affected lung. Another symptom of pleurisy is sharp pain when you breathe, cough, or sneeze. Some of the causes of pleurisy are lung infections, rheumatoid arthritis, or a rib fracture.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say that the chest pain caused by pleurisy will be worse when you cough or sneeze and even breathing can be painful.9 If your right lung is affected, the pain under your right rib cage might also radiate to your right shoulder or back.

Pleurisy can also cause a lung to collapse.

Collapsed lung

Dr. John P. Cunha on says that a collapsed lung can cause intense, stabbing pains that get worse when you breathe. Along with the pain, you may have a dry, hacking cough.10

According to Dr. Cunha, factors like smoking and drug abuse can make a person more prone to spontaneous lung collapse. Trauma or severe injury to the chest can also be a reason for a lung collapsing and causing even more intense pain to the original injury.11


The American Lung Association say that pneumonia can cause sharp or stabbing chest pains that worsen when breathing deeply. Depending on which lung is affected, you will have pain under your left or right cage.12

Pneumonia can be caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infections. Some of the other symptoms of pneumonia are a cough, fever, chills, and headaches.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer can cause aches and pain in your chest or shoulder. However, this in itself isn’t the only sign of lung cancer. According to the website Cancer Research, other symptoms of lung cancer are a constant cough, coughing up blood, tiredness, losing weight, and loss of appetite. A less common symptom of lung cancer is pain or discomfort under your right rib cage.18

If you are interested in finding out more information, you can read a more detailed article on the warning signs of lung cancer.

Digestive issues

Apart from trapped gas, there are other colon and digestive issues that can cause pain under your right rib cage.

Irritable bowel syndrome

It is not known what causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but its symptoms are bloating, excess gas, and pain in the lower abdomen. According to the Cleveland Clinic, IBS can also cause chest pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing.13

Please read my article on the best natural remedies to relieve IBS if you are bothered with this digestive problem. One natural treatment for irritable bowel syndrome is drinking aloe vera juice.

Fecal impaction

Chronic constipation can lead to fecal impaction and pain in your abdomen. The journal Pediatric Pulmonology reported on a case where a patient had chest pain, abdominal pain, and respiratory problems. The doctors discovered that the patient had fecal impaction and when the hard stool was removed, the chest pain disappeared. The journal reported that this is a “common phenomenon but probably infrequently recognized.”14

Some of the best natural laxatives for constipation are prunes, castor oil, kiwifruit, and coconut water.

Chronic constipation or impacted stool is a very common reason for having a leaky anus (anal leakage) and if you suffer from this problem, you can find more details in my article about anal leakage (leaky anus): causes, symptoms and effective treatments.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one reason that your digestive system doesn’t work properly and can cause pain under your rib cage. IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease and is caused by inflammation in the digestive tract.

According to Dr. Steven Weinberger at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, inflammatory bowel disease can cause pain under the ribs, coughing, or difficulty swallowing.15  

Rib Fracture, bruised rib, injured or pulled chest muscles

An injury to one of more of your right ribs, such as popped rib out of place, or to the muscles connecting your right ribs (called intercostal muscles) will cause chest pain. Depending on the severity of the trauma to your rib cage, the pain may be mild to severe and can wrap around the ribs. In some cases the pain could radiate to your back causing rib pain in the back and in the right side.

An injury to your rib cage can also cause other serious complications like a collapsed lung or pleurisy. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the trauma could also damage organs on the right side of your rib cage like your liver or one of your kidneys. Or it could damage your spleen which is in the upper left of your rib cage.16  

Dr. Colin Tidy on recommends pain-relief treatment to help you breathe and cough properly.17 You can check out some of my natural pain relievers if you have mild rib cage pain.

Pain Under Right Rib Cage – When to See a Doctor

You should see a doctor for any sudden, unexplained pain under your rib cage.

Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD advises seeing a doctor if you have any severe pain under your rib cage that doesn’t go away. Also, you should call a doctor immediately if you have one or more of the following symptoms along with chest pain:19

  • Sudden squeezing tightness, pressure, or crushing pain under your breastbone.
  • The pain under your ribs radiates to your jaw, left arm or back.
  • Rapid heart rate or rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Fever and chills

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:
    1. WebMD. Gallstones – symptoms.
    2. NHS. Chest pain.
    3. Patient. Upper quadrant pain.
    4. WebMD. Heart disease.
    5. MayoClinic. Kidney stones.
    6. Cedars-Sinai. FAQ about pancreatic and biliary diseases.
    7. WebMD. Appendicitis.
    8. HopkinsMedicine. Gas in the digestive tract.
    9. MayoClinic. Pleurisy.
    10. eMedicineHealth. Collapsed lung.
    11. eMedicineHealth. Collapsed lung.
    12. Lung. Pneumonia symptoms.
    13. ClevelandClinic. Irritable bowel syndrome.
    14. Pediatr Pulmonol. 1998 Sep;26(3):222-3.
    15. UpToDate. Pulmonary complications of inflammatory bowel disease.
    16. URMC. Recognizing internal injuries in young athletes.
    17. Patient. Care of rib injuries.
    18. CancerResearchUK. Lung cancer symptoms.
    19. WebMD. Chest pain causes.

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