Understanding Rib Cage Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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Rib cage pain is a frequent condition that can range from mildly unpleasant to highly incapacitating in Singapore. It can be caused by a number of things, ranging from minor muscular strains to more significant underlying medical issues. This article will look at the possible origins, symptoms, and treatment options for rib cage discomfort to help you better understand this often distressing condition.

Causes of Rib Cage Pain

  1. Muscle Strain: One of the most common causes of rib cage pain is muscle strain. Activities such as heavy lifting, sudden twisting motions, or vigorous exercise can lead to overuse or injury of the intercostal muscles, which are located between the ribs.
  2. Trauma: Rib fractures or bruising can result from accidents, falls, or sports injuries. This type of rib cage pain is typically sharp and intense, often accompanied by difficulty breathing and tenderness at the site of injury.
  3. Costochondritis: Costochondritis is an infection of the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone (sternum). It can cause intense, stabbing pains in the chest and rib area, especially while coughing or inhaling heavily.
  4. Pleurisy: Pleurisy occurs when the lining around the lungs becomes inflamed. This can cause sharp pain that worsens with deep breathing or coughing. Underlying infections or medical conditions often trigger pleurisy.
  5. Gastrointestinal Issues: Conditions such as acid reflux, gastritis, or gallbladder problems can sometimes cause referred pain to the rib cage area. This pain may be mistaken for musculoskeletal issues.
  6. Cardiovascular Problems: In some cases, heart-related issues like angina or pericarditis can cause pain that radiates to the chest and rib area. This type of pain is usually associated with other symptoms such as shortness of breath and palpitations.

Symptoms of Rib Cage Pain

Rib cage discomfort symptoms might vary depending on the underlying reason, however they may include:

  1. Acute or dull pain: The pain might be acute and searing, or it can be dull and agonising.
  2. Tenderness: The area that is affected may be sensitive to touch.
  3. Pain with movement: Rib cage pain often worsens when you move, breathe deeply, or cough.
  4. Breathing difficulties: Rib cage pain can make it painful to take deep breaths, resulting in shallow breathing.
  5. Swelling or bruising: Trauma-related rib cage pain may be accompanied by visible swelling or bruising.
  6. Other associated symptoms: Depending on the cause, you may experience additional symptoms such as fever, cough, or gastrointestinal issues.

Treatment Options for Rib Cage Pain in Singapore

The treatment for rib cage pain depends on the underlying cause. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Rest: If the pain is due to muscle strain or overuse, rest is essential. Avoid activities that exacerbate the pain and give your body time to heal.
  2. Pain relief: Ibuprofen or paracetamol, two over-the-counter painkillers, can aid with mild to moderate rib cage pain. Always adhere to the recommended dosage, and seek medical advice if you have any concerns.
  3. Ice or Heat: Applying ice or heat to the hurting area may bring relief. For acute injuries, ice is frequently more useful, although heat may be more therapeutic for muscle strains.
  4. Physical Therapy: For severe or chronic cases, physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles in the rib cage area and improve mobility.
  5. Medication: Your doctor may recommend medicine to treat the underlying cause in some circumstances, such as antibiotics for infections or anti-inflammatory drugs for disorders such as costochondritis.
  6. Lifestyle Changes: If rib cage pain is related to gastrointestinal issues, making dietary and lifestyle changes may be necessary. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance.
  7. Medical Intervention: If the pain is due to a serious medical condition, such as cardiovascular problems, your doctor will recommend appropriate treatments, which may include surgery or other interventions.


Rib cage pain can be distressing, but it is essential to determine its underlying cause for proper treatment. Whether it’s due to muscle strain, trauma, inflammation, or an underlying medical condition, addressing rib cage pain promptly and effectively is crucial for your well-being. To get an accurate diagnosis and to find the best course of action for your unique ailment, it is recommended to seek the advice of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner.

Rib Cage Pain FAQ

Infections such as upper respiratory infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia can cause rib pain. The pain could be caused by the infection, a strained rib muscle from coughing, or pleurisy.
Chest wall discomfort syndrome, costosternal syndrome, and costosternal chondrodynia are all names for costochondritis. Tietze syndrome occurs when discomfort is accompanied with edoema.
Sore ribs can be caused by a variety of ailments, including a pulled muscle, a damaged or broken rib, or even acid reflux. Broken ribs are fairly frequent and can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to heal. However, pain in the rib cage can sometimes be a sign of something more serious, such as a heart attack or even cancer.
Rib discomfort is a possibly typical sign of certain types of anxiety. Sharp chest pain that is misinterpreted as rib pain is another common symptom. Muscle stress is a major cause, but your breathing could also be to blame. There are currently few exercises that help alleviate rib pain.


If you would like an appointment / review with our rib cage pain specialist in Singapore, the best way is to call +65 3135 1327 or click here to book an appointment at the clinic. If you would like to speak to one of our clinicians first, then please contact contact@orthopaedicclinic.com.sg or SMS/WhatsApp to +65 3135 1327.

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