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What Causes Sharp Pain Under the Right Rib Cage?

I am a consulting doctor and a health writer who has been writing online for 8 years.

What's causing the sharp pain under your right rib cage? Read on to uncover 6+ common causes of pain in this area.

What's causing the sharp pain under your right rib cage? Read on to uncover 6+ common causes of pain in this area.

Are You Experiencing Rib Pain on the Right Side?

The rib cage is made up of twelve pairs of ribs, the T-shaped sternum bone, and twelve thoracic vertebrae. It is very common to experience pain under the rib cage, and there are many reasons you might experience pain in this area.

One of the primary causes of pain under the rib cage is injury or fracture of the ribs. The pain can also be felt after direct trauma to the chest. Other causes of pain under the rib cage include trauma to the walls or intercostal muscles that keep the ribs in their place and injuries to the soft tissues. The pain can be experienced on the left or right side of the rib cage, and such pain can be very intense.

The varied causes, symptoms, and treatments for sharp pain under the right rib cage are discussed below.


A few common signs and symptoms that may occur along with sharp pain under the right rib cage are as follows:

  • Pain and/or swelling in the chest area
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Breathing problems

6 Causes of Sharp Pain Under the Right Rib Cage

Some of the common causes of sharp pain under the right rib cage are listed below:

1. Rib Fracture

Fracture is one of the most common causes of sharp pain under the rib cage. The pain may be accompanied by bruising, tenderness, or swelling in the affected area. The ribs can injure or fracture due to an intense blow, crushing accident, or fall. The rib cage pain can be severe or mild.

Mild pain fades away on its own after some days. Severe pain that restricts body movements may require the intake of painkiller medications. If a part of the rib cage gets dislocated, then it can result in serious complications that include injuries to vital organs.

Depending on the severity of pain and the associated causes, the doctor may order an x-ray of the chest to study the damage, if any. Doctors may also prescribe nerve block injections and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate severe pain.

Patients are also advised to avoid physical activities that can aggravate the rib cage condition, as well as take lots of bed rest. Surgery may also be required in certain extreme cases.

2. Strain of the Intercostals

Several muscle groups are present in the rib region. These muscles are referred to as intercostal muscles. They play an important role in the process of respiration.

When the intercostal muscles on the right side of the ribs experience strain or stress, then it can result in sharp pain under the right rib cage. Intercostal muscle strain that arises due to rapid twisting of the chest can also result in soreness of the region as well as breathing difficulties. Doctors recommend NSAIDs, pain killers, and lots of rest.

3. Costochondritis

It is caused due to inflammation of the varied muscles as well as the cartilage that joins the breastbone to the rib cage. Hence, the pain associated with costochondritis typically affects the costosternal joints.

Any kind of trauma or persistent injuries to the chest region can cause the cartilage and muscles to become inflamed. It may also be noted that swelling of the cartilage can also occur due to vigorous and chronic coughing that arises due to some underlying respiratory ailment.

Such pain usually affects the left side of the ribs. However, the sharp pain can occasionally migrate to the right side under the rib cage. Doctors usually recommend NSAIDs and painkillers. Steroids may be prescribed for severe instances of costochondritis.

4. Liver Abnormalities

Although the liver is located in the abdomen, there are several kinds of liver problems that can result in sharp pain under the right rib cage. Liver cancer, infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and B, damage to the liver, etc., are some common causes of abdominal pain associated with liver problems.

5. Gallstones and Other Gallbladder Diseases

The gallbladder is another organ located in the abdomen, just below the liver. It performs the function of storing bile which is essential for the varied digestive processes.

The development of stone deposits known as gallstones can block the flow of bile and result in inflammation of the gallbladder. This can then result in sharp pain under the right rib cage as well as abdominal pain. If medications do not resolve the gallbladder problems, then surgical removal of the organ is opted for.

6. Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the mesothelium, a thin tissue cover that encloses various body organs. In pleural mesothelioma, cancer affects the mesothelium that covers the lungs and can result in sharp pain under the right rib cage.

Other Causes

  • Hernias
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney infection
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Gas and other digestive problems
  • Preeclampsia (during pregnancy)
  • Pancreatitis
You should always consult a medical professional if you are experiencing chest or abdominal pain.

You should always consult a medical professional if you are experiencing chest or abdominal pain.


This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Toby on August 22, 2020:

How does it fix though?

Elle on January 16, 2018:

I can relate!

Beticky on October 16, 2014:

I am also included in this, i has been treated long time ago by now its 4 years by now but the doctor they didt tell me where the problem its. but am hurting under my right rib, i used to go to sonar they told me there is nothing appear but even now am just paining too much.

Ryan on August 20, 2014:

I have a sharp pain under my right rib cage that is very painful when I run. It hurts when I'm not running too. I thought it might just be cramps, but it's happening every single time a run and I've never had cramps that often

rose on January 07, 2014:

had gallbladder surgery , but I am still having some sharp pain in right rib cage , that is the reason I had the surgery ,,,,I am puzzled it has been two weeks now , so will give it a bit more time and than call dr, again

James E Cressler from Orlando, Florida on December 12, 2013:

I used to have those all the time as a young man. It was from hard physical activities and being out of shape. Walk along bent over with your knuckles dragging on the ground for 40 feet and it will go away (too much blood in the liver.)

chris on November 24, 2013:

Hey I had the same problem didn't know what it was. so I went to the docter and had a check for all these problems. The pain was due to a mustcle spasm due to Strain of the Intercostals. As you said on this website I was prescribed plenty of rest and food and water.