What does it mean to have sharp stabbing pain under right rib?

Experiencing sharp stabbing pain under right rib and thinking what it can possibly mean? Well before diving into the possible reasons, understanding the anatomy of the ‘thoracic cage’ is highly essential.

Our thoracic cavity is made out of 12 pairs of ribs. The ribcage basically provides protection to many essential and delicate organs of the body including the cardiovascular system which is why many individuals consider pain under the rib cage to be associated with the heart. However, the pain might be an indication of many other diseases as well some of which we have mentioned below.

Here are some of the reasons why you can be experiencing pain under your right rib cage:

Stones in your gallbladder or gallstones

Gallstones are basically hard deposits of bile which form in your gallbladder. The size of these stones can vary from tiny (sand grain) to big (golf ball). These deposits can be caused due to the build up and accumulation of cholesterol in the gallbladder.

These stones move into the ducts and can end up causing a blockage to the flow of bile (digestive fluid) into the bile duct and this may end up causing a sharp stabbing pain under right rib. Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, pyrexia, and even irregular heartbeat. There might even be repetitive episodes of pain.

People who experience severe symptoms (such as those mentioned above) are usually advised cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

Liver problems

The pain in right side under ribs may indicate liver problems. Liver infections or liver cancer may cause a dull, chronic pain in the right upper abdomen. In such conditions, other symptoms that one may experience includes: fatigue, jaundice, dark-colored urine, weight loss, nausea and more.

It is complicated to recognize liver pain. The pain basically appears to extend from the right shoulder and under the rib cage.


Appendix is a narrow projection that is normally present in the lower right abdomen. Appendicitis refers to a condition in which the appendix gets inflamed or contaminated resulting in a sharp stabbing pain under right rib and it indicates a medical emergency.

Appendicitis pain may begin in your navel and can extend into your lower right abdominal area. Common symptoms include: vomiting, nausea, fever, loss of appetite, dizziness and more.

Straining of the Intercoastal Muscles

The intercostal muscles are many different muscles that are present between the ribs and help in the formation and movement of the chest wall. There are 11 pairs of intercostal muscles. These muscles also aid in breathing.

If a muscle is overly stretched, pulled, or even partially torn we consider it to be strained. According to sources, an individual with strained intercostal muscles may experience a sharp stabbing pain in the right side under rib cage as well. There will also be soreness felt in the specific affected area. Moreover, one might go through breathing difficulties while facing the situation,

Ulcers and Acid Reflux

Ulcers may usually be caused due to the consumption of very high potency medicines such as the a long-term intake of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which includes: ibuprofen. In some conditions, bacteria can also cause the stomach line to bleed. The symptoms of ulcers may include: acid reflux, heartburn, loss of appetite because of pain, bloating, nausea and more.

An acid reflux can cause burning sensation in the throat. Moreover, sharp stabbing pain in right side under rib cage is also experienced in this condition,

One thing that should be strictly taken under consideration is that pain under the rib cage may indicate something serious. But whatever the reasons may be, consulting a physician is important and must be a priority to help diagnose the actual problem. A doctor can properly guide one through the condition due to which one is experiencing the pain and provide the treatment plan as well.

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