Read below about severe rib pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your severe rib pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Severe Rib Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced severe rib pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Acute Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)

    Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone. Pain caused by costochondritis may mimic that of a heart attack or other heart conditions.

    Costochondritis is generally self-limiting but may take several weeks to go away.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rib pain, chest pain that is worse when breathing, chest pain, rib pain when moving, pain when pressing on the chest
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  2. 2.Rib Bruise or Fracture

    Broken or bruised ribs are usually caused by a fall or a blow to the chest, although occasionally this can happen due to severe coughing. With a broken rib, the pain is worse when bending and twisting the body.

    Improves on its own within 3 to 6 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, rib pain from an injury, sports injury, rib pain on one side, injury from a common fall
    Symptoms that always occur with rib bruise or fracture:
    rib pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Chronic Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)

    Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone. Pain caused by costochondritis may mimic that of a heart attack or other heart conditions.

    Costochondritis is generally self-limiting but may take several weeks to go away.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rib pain, chest pain, chest pain that is worse when breathing, rib pain when moving, pain when pressing on the chest
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Bacterial Pneumonia

    Bacterial pneumonia is the infection of the lungs with bacteria (as opposed to a fungus or a virus).

    1-3 weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath
    Symptoms that always occur with bacterial pneumonia:
    cough
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

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  5. 5.Atypical Chest Pain

    Atypical chest pain describes the situation when someone's chest pain is unlikely to be related to heart or lung disease. There are many other possible causes that could explain chest pain, like sore chest wall muscles or psychological factors like stress and anxiety.

    Recovery time depends on the underlying cause.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    chest pain, shortness of breath
    Symptoms that always occur with atypical chest pain:
    chest pain
    Symptoms that never occur with atypical chest pain:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Viral Pneumonia

    Viral pneumonia is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the lungs due to infection with a virus. Community-acquired pneumonia is the most common type, which is usually acquired in public areas such as at work, school, or grocery store.

    Symptoms begin to improve within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Chest Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the chest are common, given how exposed this area of the body is.

    Bruises begin to heal within one week.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rib pain, constant rib pain, rib pain from an injury, recent chest injury, bruised chest area
    Symptoms that always occur with chest bruise:
    rib pain from an injury, recent chest injury, constant rib pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Bronchitis

    Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus, as well as shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness. It is typically caused by a virus.

    Symptoms resolve within 1-2 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    cough, productive cough, sore throat, wheezing, coughing up green or yellow phlegm
    Symptoms that always occur with bronchitis:
    cough
    Symptoms that never occur with bronchitis:
    nausea or vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)

    A collapsed lung happens when air enters the pleural space, the area between the lung and the chest wall. If it is a total collapse, it is called pneumothorax.

    2-3 days

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    rib pain, rib pain on one side, shortness of breath, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, chest pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Rib Pain

  • Q.What makes your chest pain hurt more?
  • Q.Do you have a cough?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.How would you explain why your chest hurts?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our severe rib pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Severe Rib Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced severe rib pain have also experienced:

    • 6% Cough
    • 5% Rib Pain That Gets Worse When Breathing, Coughing, Sneezing, or Laughing
    • 5% Rib Pain
  • People who have experienced severe rib pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 48% Less Than a Day
    • 23% Less Than a Week
    • 14% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced severe rib pain were most often matched with:

    • 42% Rib Bruise or Fracture
    • 28% Acute Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)
    • 28% Chronic Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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