Pain under left rib cage

Pain under left rib cage can be caused due to variety of reasons. Some of the common causes of pain under left rib cage, and its associated symptoms and treatment options are discussed below:

Costochondritis: It is a condition characterized by inflammation and infection of the cartilages that connect the breast bone to the ribs. It usually develops due to an infection by viruses and results in a sharp discomforting pain under left rib cage, especially when taking deep breaths.

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Symptoms: Its symptoms are usually similar to those accompanying a cardiac arrest. Prompt medical examination can help diagnose the condition.

Treatment: Mild costochondritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. Severe or chronic cases require use of antidepressant drugs such as amitriptyline, or opioid medicines like oxycodone or hydrocodone. Recovery requires lots of rest and avoidance of stress causing activities.

Bowel obstruction: It refers to total or partial intestinal blockage resulting from entanglement of the intestines.

Symptoms: Patients may experience discomfort or acute pain under left rib cage. Vomiting, constipation, and abnormal stool are other associated symptoms.

Treatment:Immediate medical attention involving a CT scan or an X-ray of the abdomen will help diagnose the condition. It is then treated by passing a pipe via the nose into the intestines. Surgery may be needed in severe cases.

Cracked/fractured/injured ribs: It is one of the prime causes of extreme pain under left rib cage. It can occur due to an intense impact or blow to the region, or due to accidents. The pain tends to worsen when breathing deeply.

Treatment: Fractured/cracked ribs are diagnosed via X-rays of the chest area. An MRI or a CT scan is also done to verify if there is any nerve injury. Minor cracks tend to heal without treatment in 30 to 60 days. Pain medications may be taken for pain alleviation. Severe cases are treated with surgery.

Acid reflux/heartburn: It is caused due to intake of excess acidic drinks or food. Patients will experience bloating and a sharp pain under left rib cage, similar to a chest ache.

Treatment: Drugs like dexlansoprazole, esomeprazole, or lansoprazole are given to find relief from heartburn or acid reflux. Patients are also advised to avoid acidic foods.

Gas accumulation in the colon: Also referred to as splenic flexure syndrome, the condition is caused due to trapping of increased amounts of gas in the colon. Patients may experience discomfort and pain under left rib cage.

Treatment: Dietary changes and antacid medications help treat the condition. Patients may lean on a chair’s back to eliminate the accumulated gas. Avoidance of indigestion-causing foods is also recommended.

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Irritation of the spleen: A rupture or tear in the spleen can occasionally result in pain under left rib cage. Another symptom of a burst spleen is intense pain at the tips of the shoulders.

Treatment: Immediate diagnosis and early treatment with medications can easily help resolve the condition. If the condition remains untreated for prolonged periods, then surgery is the only option.

Pneumothorax: The condition is characterized by rupture of the lungs, which in turn arises due to tearing of the lung membrane, leakage of air, and its accumulation in the cavity between the rib cage and the lungs.

Treatment: Immediate medical attention is vital. In most cases, pneumothoraxis treated via surgery.

Stomach ulcers: Pain under left rib cage can also be a sign of stomach ulcers. As per the severity of the disorder, the discomfort or pain may last for just a few minutes or may continue for prolonged periods.

Treatment: Antibiotics are prescribed to treat the stomach ulcers as well as to alleviate associated symptoms.

IBS or irritable bowel syndrome: It is a condition characterized by abnormal functioning of the digestive glands and involves deficient secretion of digestive enzymes essential for breakdown of food into simple matter. It is caused due to intake of a diet that is deficient in water or fiber-abundant foods, or due to prolonged overeating.

Symptoms: Along with pain under left rib cage, patients may experience intestinal cramps, bloating, and abnormal/disrupted bowel movements consisting of diarrhea or constipation.

Treatment: Use of laxatives and a balanced diet rich in fiber content is advised by doctors.

Indigestion and constipation: Constipation involves hardening of feces leading to additional efforts to evacuate stools, thereby resulting in irritating pain in stomach, particularly under left rib cage. Indigestion also causes similar irritating pain, albeit such pain often begins suddenly and is typically preceded by continuous burping.

Treatment:A balanced diet rich in fiber content and avoidance of indigestion-causing foods can help treat constipation and indigestion.

Gastritis: It is characterized by erosion, inflammation, and swelling of the stomach lining. It may be caused due to a bacterial infection or other causes. Subsequent disruption of the digestive processes results in frequent vomiting and pain under left rib cage.

Treatment:It is treated via intake of antacids and other medications that help decrease stomach acids. Patients also need to avoid spicy and hot foods.

Other causes: Pain under left rib cage may also be a symptom of kidney stones or diverticulitis, i.e. infection of diverticulosis. Kidney stones may be treated with medications or surgery, while treatment for the latter involves use of medicines and lifestyle changes.


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