Back Rib Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Ever felt pain in the back of your ribs? You’re not alone. Back rib pain comes from many things. Maybe it’s just from too much activity. Or, it could be due to serious issues like osteoporosis, or lung problems. The pain may go away by itself. But, it’s best to know the causes and see a doctor if it’s bad or comes with other symptoms.

This article looks at what causes back rib pain. We’ll talk about the signs it comes with. And, we’ll look at how to treat it. If it’s from a muscle pull, a continuing problem, or could be serious, understanding the cause is key. This way, you can find relief and stop more issues from happening.

Key Takeaways

  • Back rib pain can have a variety of causes, including injuries, muscle strains, and underlying medical conditions.
  • Symptoms of back rib pain can range from sharp, dull, or burning pain to swelling, difficulty breathing, and muscle spasms.
  • Diagnosing the cause of back rib pain often involves a physical examination and imaging tests like X-rays or CT scans.
  • Treatment options may include medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgical interventions.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention is important, especially if the pain is severe or accompanied by other concerning symptoms.

Understanding Back Rib Pain

Back rib pain is a tough issue to get. It’s also called thoracic spine pain. The thoracic spine supports the rib cage, running along the body’s back side. It’s key for staying upright, moving, and keeping the organs safe. This part of the spine is between the neck and lower back.

What is Back Rib Pain?

Back rib pain is felt around the ribs and the thoracic spine. It can range from a little twinge to a lot of pain. Sometimes, you may feel swelling, tenderness, or have trouble catching your breath.

Anatomy of the Ribs and Thoracic Spine

Our ribs protect our vital organs. They are curved bones linked to the thoracic spine in the back and to the sternum in the front. They expand and contract when we breathe, thanks to its bones, joints, and tissues.

The thoracic spine has many parts like vertebral bodies and muscles. Issues in this area can lead to persistent back rib pain. This pain might not go away with simple treatments.

Thoracic SpineThe middle portion of the spine, located below the neck and above the lower back, providing support for the rib cage.
Rib CageA protective cage of curved bones (ribs) that wrap around the front and sides of the chest, protecting the internal organs.
SternumThe flat bone in the center of the chest that the ribs connect to at the front.
Costal CartilageThe flexible connective tissue that connects the ribs to the sternum, allowing for chest expansion during breathing.
Rib DysfunctionAny issues or problems within the musculoskeletal system of the ribs and thoracic spine that can contribute to back rib pain.

Common Causes of Back Rib Pain

Many things can cause back rib pain. It’s important to know what’s causing it. This helps find the right treatment to feel better.

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Injuries and Trauma

Hurting your ribs is a common cause of back rib pain. This can happen from falling, car crashes, or sports.

Muscular Strains and Sprains

Straining the muscles between your ribs can cause back rib pain. This often comes from doing too much, lifting heavy things, or sudden twists.


Costochondritis is when the cartilage joining your ribs to your chestbone gets inflamed. It hurts a lot in your back rib area.


For people with osteoporosis, breaking a rib is easier. This often results in back rib pain. It’s more common in older adults, especially women.


Fibromyalgia can cause a lot of muscle and bone pain. This might lead to back rib pain too. It affects women more than men.

It’s key to figure out what’s causing your back rib pain. Then, you can get the right treatment. If the pain doesn’t go away or is very bad, see a doctor. They can help you figure out what to do next.

back rib pain

Rib pain can come from inside, not just muscles. For example, gallstones cause pain in the right upper stomach. This pain goes under the ribs and sometimes to the back. It can lead to jaundice and dark urine.


Gallstones are hard particles in the gallbladder, under the liver. When they block the gallbladder duct, pain gets severe. It’s a medical emergency and needs quick attention.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism blocked lung blood vessel can cause back rib pain. It’s dangerous and can show symptoms like leg pain and coughing blood. It needs immediate medical help.

Lung Conditions

Lung problems like pleurisy or lung cancer can also cause back rib pain. Lung cancer is a big cause of chest and rib pain in the U.S..

Symptoms of Back Rib Pain

Back rib pain can make you feel a lot of different things. You might feel sharp, dull, or burning pain. The area could also swell or bruise, making it hard to breathe. You might feel sore to touch or have muscle spasms. This pain might move to the chest, shoulder, or belly too.

Types of Pain

The kind of pain you feel gives hints about what’s wrong. A sharp pain could mean a rib injury. Dull pain might show a muscle issue. A burning feeling could be from a pinched nerve or some other nerve condition.

Associated Symptoms

There are other signs to watch for too. Swelling and bruises might mean you hurt yourself. It might be hard to breathe deeply with a rib or lung problem. Pain when touched or muscle spasms could be from arthritis or fibromyalgia. Knowing all these symptoms helps doctors find what’s causing your back rib pain.

Diagnosing the Cause of Back Rib Pain

The first step to help your back rib pain is finding the real cause. Your doctor will do a physical exam. They will listen to your symptoms and what happened before to understand better.

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Physical Examination

Your doctor will press lightly on your ribs to see if they hurt. They might ask you to breathe deeply or move a certain way. This tells them more about what’s wrong.

Imaging Tests

After the exam, your doctor might want to do more tests. They could order a X-ray or a CT scan. These tests are like taking special pictures of your chest and back. They help spot problems like broken bones or twisted joints that could be causing the pain.

Once the tests are done, the doctors know more about your pain. This helps them make a plan to treat you better.

Treatment Options for Back Rib Pain

The way to treat back rib pain varies, based on what’s causing it. To help, your doctor might suggest different therapies. These aim to ease the pain and fix the main issue.


You might use pain medications to lessen discomfort. Things like acetaminophen or NSAIDs are common. They cut down on pain and swelling, making life more bearable as you try other ways to feel better.

Physical Therapy

Working with a physical therapist can do wonders for back rib pain. They focus on stretching and special exercises. This helps move better, builds strong muscles, and offers physical therapy for pain that stays away.

Lifestyle Changes

Tweaking how you live can make a big difference in managing back rib pain. Good posture is key, especially during long sittings or standings. It cuts down on rib and back wear. Also, saying no to rough sports and trying warm or cold packs on your back might be nice for a bit of relief informally.

Working with your doctor to figure out the cause and a plan strictly for you can really help. With a chosen treatment route, back rib pain might become much less and more manageable.

Preventing Back Rib Pain

Keeping good posture and doing specific exercises and stretches helps stop back rib pain. These steps lessen strain on your ribs and back. This makes you less likely to get hurt or feel pain.

Maintaining Good Posture

Standing and sitting right is key to support your ribs and spine. Remember to keep your shoulders back, head straight up, and tighten your stomach. Doing so spreads the weight across your body. This cuts down stress on your back and ribs.

Exercise and Stretching

Adding core exercises and stretches in your routine is great for preventing back rib pain. Work on your abs and back with exercises. Don’t forget to stretch for better posture, core strength, and more body flexibility. This keeps your ribs and back strong and healthy.

Focusing on good posture and fitness can avoid back rib pain. It keeps your body strong and healthy.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Feeling a lot of back rib pain that doesn’t go away? If moving hurts because of it, see a doctor. Also, go to a doctor if the pain comes with a fever, feels cold, or you’re throwing up. Quick help can stop problems and find the cause of your pain.

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Bad or staying pain means you need help now. If the pain and a fever come together, get checked by a doctor. Acting early can prevent big problems and find out why you hurt.

If resting or medicine doesn’t help, call the doctor right away. They can check you and suggest the best way to fix your pain. Working with a doctor helps you get better and stay healthy.


Back rib pain can come from many reasons. It might be from a hurt or a pulled muscle. Or, it could be from a bigger health issue. Knowing the signs, and getting help early, is very important. This helps to fix the problem and ease the pain in your back, ribs, or chest.

If you have muscle pain, a broken rib, or deal with osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to get better. Your doctor can find out what’s wrong and make a plan to help you feel better. They may use medicine, exercises, or suggest changes to your daily life. This is all to help you move better and not feel pain.

Don’t ignore serious back rib pain. If it’s bad or lasts a long time, and you find it hard to breathe, see a doctor right away. Finding and treating the problem early stops it from getting worse. This helps you get back to feeling good again. The goal is to manage your rib cage pain and improve your overall health.


What is back rib pain?

Back rib pain hurts in the area where the ribs are at the back. It’s from injuries, muscle strains, or health problems.

What are some common causes of back rib pain?

Rib injuries, muscle strains, and costochondritis are common causes. It can also be from issues like osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and even gallstones.If it’s from lung issues, it could be pleurisy or lung cancer.

What are the symptoms of back rib pain?

You might feel sharp, dull, or burning pain with back rib pain. Swelling, bruising, and trouble breathing can also happen.You could also feel tender, have muscle spasms, or pain in your chest, shoulder, or abdomen.

How is the cause of back rib pain diagnosed?

A doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. They might also do X-rays or CT scans to check for problems.

What are the treatment options for back rib pain?

Treating back rib pain might involve pain meds, physical therapy, or lifestyle changes. Your doctor will make a plan based on the cause.

How can I prevent back rib pain?

Good posture is key to avoid back rib pain. Add in exercises that work your core and stretch the muscles around your ribs.

When should I seek medical attention for back rib pain?

Go see a doctor if you have really bad pain that won’t go away. Also, if you have other symptoms like a fever, chills, or vomiting, you should get checked.Getting help fast can stop things from getting worse.