Symptoms A-Z

Rib Pain in The Upper Back Symptom, Causes & Questions

Understand your rib pain in the upper back symptoms, including 4 causes & common questions.

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Contents

  1. 4 Possible Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics

4 Possible Rib Pain In The Upper Back Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced rib pain in the upper back. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Myofascial pain syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is also called chronic myofascial pain (CMP.) Pressure on certain points of the muscles causes referred pain, meaning the pain is felt elsewhere in the body.

The cause is believed to be muscle injury through overuse, either from sports or from a job requiring repetitive motion. Tension, stress, and poor posture can also cause habitual tightening of the muscles, a form of overuse.

This overuse causes scar tissue, or adhesions, to form in the muscles. These points are known as trigger points, since they trigger pain at any stimulus.

Symptoms include deep, aching muscular pain that does not go away with rest or massage, but may actually worsen. There is often difficulty sleeping due to pain.

Myofascial pain syndrome should be seen by a medical provider, since it can develop into a similar but more severe condition called fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and applying mild pressure to locate the trigger points.

Treatment involves physical therapy, pain medications, and trigger point injections. In some cases, acupuncture and antidepressants are helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome: tender muscle knot

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Herniated (slipped) disk in the upper back

The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: upper back pain, neck pain, arm weakness, back pain that gets worse when sitting, upper spine pain

Symptoms that always occur with herniated (slipped) disk in the upper back: upper back pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Rib Pain In The Upper Back Symptom Checker

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Vertebral osteomyelitis

Vertebral osteomyelitis, or spinal osteomyelitis, is an infection in the bones of the spine. It usually affects the lumbar, or lower, back, and may be either acute or chronic.

The infection is caused by bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and by some types of fungi. These agents can travel through the bloodstream from an infected wound elsewhere in the body and reach the bones of the spine.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems; poor circulation; recent injury; or undergoing hemodialysis. Osteomyelitis of the spine is the most common form of osteomyelitis in adults, though children can also be affected.

Symptoms include swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the infection, along with fever, chills, and fatigue.

A medical provider should be seen for these symptoms, as vertebral osteomyelitis can progress to abscess and cause further complications if not treated.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests, imaging of the spine, and sometimes biopsy.

Treatment involves several weeks of intravenous antibiotic or antifungal medication, which can be given as an outpatient.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: upper back pain, spontaneous neck or back pain, fever, foot numbness, upper leg numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis typically causes redness, swelling, pain, and stiffness of certain joints. Most commonly, the fingers and toes are affected and may appear "sausage-like." Psoriatic arthritis is predominantly a genetic disease but it can be activated by certain environmental triggers. Avoidance of these triggers could delay or prevent disease onset. Treatment includes symptom management with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids. In more severe cases, other drugs to halt the disease progression such as methotrexate are used.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: shoulder pain, lower back pain, joint pain, upper back pain, hip pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Rib Pain In The Upper Back

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Turn your head toward the side of your body that is hurting. Lift your head up as someone else pushes down on your head. Does this cause greater pain in your upper body? (This is known as Spurling's test.)
  • What is your body mass?
  • Do you feel a painful, tight knot or band in your muscle anywhere on the body?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out why you're having rib pain in the upper back

Rib Pain In The Upper Back Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced rib pain in the upper back have also experienced:

  • 5% Rib Pain
  • 4% Rib Pain On One Side
  • 3% Pain In The Upper Right Abdomen

People who have experienced rib pain in the upper back were most often matched with:

  • 50% Vertebral Osteomyelitis
  • 25% Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  • 25% Herniated (Slipped) Disk In The Upper Back

People who have experienced rib pain in the upper back had symptoms persist for:

  • 34% Less than a day
  • 27% Less than a week
  • 21% Over a month

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Rib Pain In The Upper Back Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having rib pain in the upper back