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What is dull pain under right rib cage?

Experiencing pain under the right rib cage can be concerning. However, in most cases, it is not a cause for alarm. There are many potential causes of dull pain under the right rib cage, most of which are harmless and easily treated.

What Organ Is Under Your Right Rib?

The main organs located under the right rib cage are the liver, right kidney, gallbladder, and right lung. Pain under the right rib cage is most commonly caused by minor issues affecting these organs, such as:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Muscle strain
  • Heartburn/acid reflux
  • Constipation

However, more serious conditions can also sometimes cause pain in this area. Being aware of the location and type of pain can help identify potentially problematic causes.

What Does It Mean When You Have Pain Under Your Right Rib Cage?

There are many possible causes of pain under the right rib cage. Common causes include:

  • Gas and bloating: Built up gas in the gastrointestinal tract is a very common cause of mild pain under the right rib cage. Gas pain tends to feel like cramping or jabbing sensations.
  • Muscle strain: Overuse or injury of the muscles supporting the ribs can result in aches and discomfort on the right side under the ribs. The pain tends to worsen with movement or deep breathing.
  • Heartburn/acid reflux: Stomach acid backing up into the esophagus can cause a burning sensation under the right rib cage. The pain may worsen after eating.
  • Constipation: Difficult or infrequent bowel movements can distend the colon and push up against the liver and ribs, causing a cramping ache.
  • Liver issues: An inflamed or enlarged liver results in a dull, throbbing pain under the right ribs. Potential causes include hepatitis, cirrhosis, or mono.
  • Gallstones: Blocked bile ducts due to gallstones lead to right upper abdominal pain that may radiate into the ribs. Gallbladder attacks cause severe, crampy pain.
  • Kidney stones: Sharp pain under the ribs that radiates to the groin and lower back suggests a kidney stone has become lodged in a ureter.
  • Pleurisy: Inflammation where the lungs rub against the chest wall results in stabbing respiratory pain under the ribs.

While gas and muscle pain are harmless, repeat episodes or severe pain should be evaluated by a doctor. Seek immediate care for symptoms like fever, vomiting, jaundice, or difficulty breathing along with rib pain.

Common Characteristics of Pain Under the Right Rib Cage

The characteristics of the pain can provide clues to the underlying cause:

  • Sharp, stabbing pain – Indicates an acute process like pleurisy, pneumonia, heart attack, or kidney stone.
  • Dull, aching pain – Suggests a more chronic condition like liver disease, gallbladder disease, or enlarged spleen.
  • Cramping pain – Associated with gas, constipation, gallbladder spasm, kidney stone.
  • Burning pain – Caused by acid reflux, gastritis, ulcer.
  • Pain that radiates – Spread of pain towards the back or groin points to a kidney or liver issue.
  • Pain with breathing – Occurs with lung infections like pneumonia or pleurisy.

Paying attention to these details can provide vital clues to the cause and determine if immediate medical care is needed.

When to See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your primary care physician for evaluation if you experience:

  • Ongoing or worsening pain under the right rib cage
  • Repeated episodes of severe pain
  • Pain that interferes with daily activities
  • Additional symptoms like fever, nausea, or jaundice

Seek emergency medical care for:

  • Sudden, severe pain under the right rib cage
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulder or jaw
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness

Severe pain coupled with breathing problems, heart attack symptoms, or neurological changes warrants immediate emergency care to determine if a serious medical issue is occurring.

Diagnostic Tests

To identify the underlying cause of pain under the right rib cage, the doctor may order:

  • Blood tests – Checks for signs of infection, liver issues, or kidney problems.
  • Urinalysis – Screens urine for blood, protein, or stone-forming crystals.
  • Ultrasound – Images the gallbladder, kidneys, and liver to identify stones or structural changes.
  • CT scan – Provides detailed views of the abdominal organs to pinpoint problems.
  • HIDA scan – Examines gallbladder function if gallstones are suspected.
  • Endoscopy – A camera inserted orally checks for ulcers or acid reflux.

Based on your symptoms and exam findings, your doctor will determine which tests are appropriate to accurately diagnose the cause.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of pain under the right rib cage. Options may include:

  • Dietary changes – May alleviate gas, bloating, acid reflux, or constipation.
  • Antacids – Neutralize stomach acid and relieve associated rib pain.
  • Pain relievers – Ibuprofen or acetaminophen help ease muscular pain.
  • Muscle relaxants – Relieve muscle spasms or strained intercostal tissues.
  • Antibiotics – Treat bacterial infections associated with pneumonia or kidney infections.
  • Gallbladder removal – Eliminates the source of pain from gallstones.

Seeking prompt medical treatment maximizes the chances for a full recovery and prevents complications. Discuss all treatment options thoroughly with your physician.

Home Remedies to Relieve Pain Under the Right Rib Cage

For mild to moderate pain under the right rib cage, these remedies may provide relief at home:

  • Apply a heating pad to loosen tight muscles
  • Use an OTC pain cream containing menthol or lidocaine
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or NSAIDs
  • Drink chamomile tea to ease digestion and reduce gas pain
  • Avoid gassy foods including beans, broccoli, onions
  • Limit fatty, greasy, or spicy foods that trigger reflux
  • Do gentle yoga stretches to relax abdominal muscles
  • Use proper posture and body mechanics to prevent muscle strain

While home remedies can provide symptom relief, seek medical evaluation if pain persists or worsens. Unexplained rib pain should always be examined by a doctor.


Many cases of right rib pain can be prevented with simple healthy lifestyle approaches:

  • Maintain good posture and strengthen core muscles
  • Stretch before physical activity to warm up muscles
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce acid reflux
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation
  • Limit fatty, greasy foods to avoid gallbladder issues
  • Manage chronic conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes
  • Quit smoking to optimize lung and cardiovascular health

While not all causes can be prevented, leading an overall healthy lifestyle can reduce the chances of experiencing problematic pain under the right rib cage.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Seek immediate emergency medical care if pain under the right rib cage is accompanied by:

  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting blood or passing bloody stool
  • High fever, chills, or uncontrollable shaking
  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes)
  • Severe, crushing chest pain that radiates to the jaw, arm, or back

These signs and symptoms suggest a potentially life-threatening problem requiring urgent evaluation and treatment. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away if these symptoms develop alongside rib cage pain.

When to See a Doctor

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience:

  • Pain that persists over several days
  • Recurring episodes of pain under the right rib cage
  • Pain severe enough to disrupt sleep or daily activities
  • Additional symptoms like nausea, fever, or jaundice

A doctor should evaluate unexplained rib pain that continues beyond a few days, occurs frequently, or impacts quality of life. Prompt diagnosis is key to effective treatment and preventing complications.

Key Takeaways

  • Common causes of dull pain under the right rib cage include gas, muscle strain, heartburn, constipation, liver issues, gallstones, and kidney stones.
  • Characteristics of the pain like sharpness, radiation, relation to breathing can signify the likely cause.
  • See a doctor for persistent, recurrent, severe, or disruptive right rib cage pain.
  • Seek emergency care if pain is accompanied by breathing problems, fever, bloody stools, loss of consciousness.
  • Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best outcome when experiencing concerning rib cage pain.


While right rib pain is rarely cause for serious concern, it’s important to identify the cause. Most cases can be easily treated at home, but recurrent or worsening pain warrants medical evaluation. Contact a doctor right away if right rib pain is severe or accompanied by alarming symptoms like difficulty breathing. With prompt diagnosis, most causes of pain under the rib cage can be successfully managed.