What causes pain under the left rib cage?

pain under the left rib cage
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


Pain under the left rib cage can be due to a number of serious and unserious conditions. Serious, including pancreatitis, pericarditis, pleurisy, stomach issues, and heart-related problems, need medical attention, a diagnosis from your healthcare provider, and prescription medications. Some non-serious causes do not need immediate medical attention. Examples include bloating or gas, etc. Their symptoms will disappear on their own without any external treatment. 

What causes pain under the left rib cage?

Pain on or under the left rib can indicate a number of medical conditions. It can either directly indicate the presence of pancreatitis, inflammation vasoconstriction, or gastritis, or it can indirectly indicate damage or injury to any part near or in the cavity of the left rib case, e.g., the lungs. Some of the most prominent causes of pain under the left rib cage can be: 

1. Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach that produces enzymes that help digestion. Pancreatitis is a condition in the pancreas when inflammation occurs on the outer side of the walls for different reasons. It can directly cause pain under the left rib cage, as the stabbing pain affects an individual’s normal day-to-day activities. 

2. Pericarditis

The pericardium is the thin layer surrounding the outer side of the heart. Inflammation of this thick sac or layer outside the heart is called pericarditis, and it can be felt like a pain under the left rib cage. This medical condition can only be diagnosed with the help of a healthcare provider, and the medication will be given accordingly. 

3. Pleurisy

Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the outer layer of the lungs or chest cavity. It can occur for several reasons, including pain in the left rib cage, worsening breathing, severe coughing, and sneezing. Pleurisy can only be treated and diagnosed by your healthcare provider. Medications can only be provided after careful diagnosis and consultation. 

Worried about pain under the left rib cage? Get connected for professional help now!

Usually, the pain on the left side around the rib cage can be due to any heart-related problem. Surprisingly, it can be true sometimes in cases of heart attack and aortic dissection where the pinning or stabbing pain can arise from under the left rib cage like a wave. 

In case of heart attack, pain in the left arm and back will also be felt, and in some cases of diabetes, the skin will become pale with little to less pain, says Dr Richard Honekar

These serious medical emergencies can only be diagnosed and treated by healthcare providers. A person suffering from these pains should be rushed to a healthcare facility or hospital for urgent care, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Some of the other prominent causes of pain under the left rib cage include: 

  • Costochondritis (Inflammation at the junction of the rib and breast bone) 
  • Spleen inflammation
  • GIT problems like Irritable bowel syndrome (IBD), Gastritis, peptic ulcers and GERD. 
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Kidney stones or infection surrounding the kidney. 
  • Rhabdomyolysis (muscle injury or dead muscles) 

How do we know what causes the pain under the left rib?

The cause of the left rib cage pain can not be solely diagnosed by self-evaluation. You should consult your healthcare provider and discuss the symptoms and medical history with them. 

Simple causes, like heartburn and constipation, may resolve or go away independently. However, other conditions may persist or worsen, and you will need a consultation with your healthcare provider for diagnosis or treatment.

Suppose you have persistent pain accompanied by coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty, and pain in other body parts that becomes unbearable. In such cases, you need your doctor’s medical consultation and effective treatment options. 

Your healthcare provider will diagnose by: 

  • Physical examination 
  • Taking medical history 
  • Medication history 
  • Diagnostic tests

After that, a tailored medication prescription will be given to you according to the nature and severity of your medical condition. 

You can now get treated for the pain under your left rib cage virtually! Connect with an online doctor now!

How can I treat pain in my left ribs?

Treatment options depend on the cause of the pain. If the cause is temporary and not severe, like heartburn, gas, or constipation, it can be treated with simple exercise, mobility, or home remedies, including ginger tea or OTC meds.

In severe cases, like gastritis, heart problems, or other serious medical conditions, different medications are given according to the cause. 

Commonly prescribed medications for these conditions are: 

  • For pancreatitis, antibiotics and hydration may be necessary to treat the symptoms.
  • For pericarditis: Painkillers, colchicine, or steroids are prescribed according to the underlying cause.
  • In the case of pleurisy, antibiotics like Amoxicillin, Azithromycin, and Ceftriaxone are prescribed for effective treatment. The dose will be decided according to the nature and severity of the condition. 
  • If the pain in your left rib case is due to heart problems, ace inhibitors or beta blockers will be prescribed to you according to your medical condition and severity after careful and in-depth diagnosis by your healthcare provider. 

Consult a doctor

In case of persistant pain on the left side under the rib cage, Pressure, or strain, it’s good to get connected with an online doctor to get the actual diagnosis and treatment option. Whether its serious or non-serious, only your doctor can diagnose the exact underlying cause and will prescribe you the treatment more appropriate to your needs. 

FAQs about pain under the left rib cage

Can gallbladder cause left-side pain under ribs?

It occurs very occasionally only. A bad gallbladder usually causes pain under the left rib cage due to malfunction, abnormality, or any underlying condition. However, diagnosing the exact cause is difficult until your healthcare provider performs a proper physical examination. 

Can sleeping on your side cause rib pain?

Yes, sometimes sleeping on your side can cause rib cage pain if pressure exists. It will make it difficult to walk and move in the morning. Some warm-up exercises and stretching can relieve the pain without the intervention of any medical attention. 

How do you know if rib pain is muscular?

Pain in the rib can be muscular, termed as intercostal muscle strain, and can indicate symptoms like shortness of breath and limited range of motion of the upper torso along with upper limbs (arms). 

What is a rib flare on the left side?

A rib flare on the left side refers to a condition where the ribs protrude or stick out more than usual on the left side of the chest. This can be caused by abnormal rib positioning, muscle imbalances, or structural issues.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Alderink, Gordon J., and Blake M. Ashby. “Thoracic Spine and Rib Cage Pain with a Comorbidity of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.” Clinical Kinesiology and Biomechanics: A Problem-Based Learning Approach. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2023. 179-204.
  • Kubota, Kensuke, et al. “Disturbance of rib cage development causes progressive thoracic scoliosis: the creation of a nonsurgical structural scoliosis model in mice.” JBJS 95.18 (2013): e130.
  • Chun, Dong-il, et al. “Osteochondroma of ventral scapula associated with chest pain due to rib cage compression: A case report.” Medicine 97.17 (2018): e0510.

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