Symptoms A-Z

Sharp Rib Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your sharp rib pain symptoms, including 10 causes & common questions.

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10 Possible Sharp Rib Pain Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced sharp 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...

Normal occurence of chest pain

Sometimes chest pain is not a sign of a heart attack. The following symptoms are usually typical of more benign conditions:

If the pain is brief, like a short shock, and subsides right away, it is most likely from an injury such as a broken rib or pulled muscle in the chest.

Sharp pain in the chest that improves with exercise is probably from acid reflux or a similar condition, and will be eased with antacids.

A small, sharp pain anywhere in the chest that actually feels worse on breathing is probably from a lung inflammation such as pneumonia or asthma.

An actual heart attack involves intense, radiating chest pain that lasts for several minutes; worsens with activity; and is accompanied by nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain in the arms, back, or jaw. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

If there is any question as to whether the symptoms are serious or not, a medical provider should be seen as soon as possible.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: chest pain, rib pain

Symptoms that always occur with normal occurrence of chest pain: chest pain

Symptoms that never occur with normal occurrence of chest pain: being severely ill, shortness of breath, fainting, severe chest pain, crushing chest pain, excessive sweating, nausea or vomiting

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

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

Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve between the heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly because the flaps of the valve are "floppy." Most people who have the condition are born with it.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, rib pain, shortness of breath, racing heart beat

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

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Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a chronic condition that involves repeated episodes of panic attacks, as well as worry about future attacks or consequences of attacks, or unhelpful changes in behavior to avoid the attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of sudden-onset fear, discomfort, and/or other symptoms tha...

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...

Pulmonary embolism

An embolus is a blood clot that forms in the bloodstream, breaks loose, and is carried by the blood to become lodged elsewhere in the circulatory system. If this clot (embolus) blocks part of the bloodstream in the lungs (pulmonary system,) this condition is called pulmonary embolis...

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

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

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Sharp 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?

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 what might be causing your sharp rib pain

Sharp Rib Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced sharp rib pain have also experienced:

  • 11% Rib Pain On One Side
  • 6% Shortness Of Breath
  • 5% Rib Pain

People who have experienced sharp rib pain were most often matched with:

  • 50% Atypical Chest Pain
  • 25% Acute Costochondritis (Chest Wall Syndrome)
  • 25% Normal Occurence Of Chest Pain

People who have experienced sharp 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 visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Sharp Rib Pain Symptom Checker

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Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.