Severe Rib Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your severe rib pain symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.

Severe Rib Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your severe rib pain

Contents

  1. 9 Possible Severe Rib Pain Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics
  5. Related Articles

9 Possible Severe Rib Pain Causes

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

Acute costochondritis (chest wall syndrome)

Acute costochondritis is the inflammation of the flexible cartilage that connects each rib to the breastbone. Costochondritis is caused by excessive coughing or by straining the upper body, as with weightlifti...

Read more

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.

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

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.

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

Bacterial pneumonia

Bacterial pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by one of several different bacteria, often Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumonia is often contracted in hospitals or nursing homes.

Symptoms include fatigue, fever, chills, painful and difficult breathing, and cough that brings up mucus. Elderly patients may have low body temperature and confusion.

Pneumonia can be a medical emergency for very young children or those over age 65, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system or a chronic heart or lung condition. Emergency room is only needed for severe cases or for those with immune deficiency.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests and chest x-ray.

With bacterial pneumonia, the treatment is antibiotics. Be sure to finish all the medication, even if you start to feel better. Hospitalization may be necessary for higher-risk cases.

Some types of bacterial pneumonia can be prevented through vaccination. Flu shots help, too, by preventing another illness from taking hold. Keep the immune system healthy through good diet and sleep habits, not smoking, and frequent handwashing.

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

Severe Rib Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your severe rib pain

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.

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

Viral pneumonia

Viral pneumonia, also called "viral walking pneumonia," is an infection of the lung tissue with influenza ("flu") or other viruses.

These viruses spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Those with weakened immune systems are most susceptible, such as young children, the elderly, and anyone receiving chemotherapy or organ transplant medications.

Symptoms may be mild at first. Most common are cough showing mucus or blood; high fever with shaking chills; shortness of breath; headache; fatigue; and sharp chest pain on deep breathing or coughing.

Medical care is needed right away. If not treated, viral pneumonia can lead to respiratory and organ failure.

Diagnosis is made through chest x-ray. A blood draw or nasal swab may be done for further testing.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses and will not help viral pneumonia. Treatment involves antiviral drugs, corticosteroids, oxygen, pain/fever reducers such as ibuprofen, and fluids. IV (intravenous) fluids may be needed to prevent dehydration.

Prevention consists of flu shots as well as frequent and thorough handwashing.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, cough, shortness of breath, loss of appetite

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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.

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

Bronchitis

Acute bronchitis is an inflammatory reaction to an infection in the airways. Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by a viral infection, although some cases may be due to a bacterial infection.

Symptoms include an acute-onset cough with or without sputum production, low-grade fever, shortness of breat...

Read more

Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)

A pneumothorax occurs when air or gas leaks into the space (called the pleural space), separating the lung from the chest wall. It puts pressure on the lung, causing the lung to collapse.

Symptoms include sudden, sharp chest pain that worsens with de...

Read more

Share your story with others

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Rib Pain

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

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

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

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your severe rib pain. These questions are also covered.

Take quiz

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 were most often matched with:

  • 42% Rib Bruise Or Fracture
  • 28% Acute Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)
  • 28% Chronic Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)

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

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Severe Rib Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your severe rib pain

No ads, doctor reviewed. Let's crack your symptom code together - like us on Facebook to follow along.