10 Reasons Behind Pain Under Right Rib Cage When Bending Over (And What to do about it)

The rib cage is one of the most protected areas of your body. That’s because it houses two of the most important organs; the heart and the lungs. So when people feel pain under right rib cage when bending over, they immediately have a heart attack.

But the real reason may be much different than what most people think. The right rib cage is an essential anatomical location containing parts of different organs. So issues with several different biological systems can cause pain in this region.

To learn more about what causes pain under the right rib cage, read this article till the end.

Why do I feel pain under right rib cage when bending over?

Several reasons can cause pain under right rib cage. Important organs of various systems are located close to the right side of the rib cage. It’s a junction point where organs of the circulatory, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems overlap.

Some of the important organs near the right rib cage are:

  • Right lung
  • Diaphragm
  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Gastroesophageal junction
  • Duodenum
  • Right colic flexure
pain under right rib cage when bending over

When you feel pain in your chest, your thoughts immediately turn to heart attack or stroke. This is the typical reaction most people have if they experience any pain in the chest. But in fact, the reasons behind it can be pretty varied.

The most common and simplest cause can be a pulled muscle in the ribcage or any injury. But the pain you feel may also indicate problems elsewhere in your body.

So, to make the proper diagnosis, it’s crucial to have an idea about the probable causes of right rib cage pain. Otherwise, it’s impossible to identify the cause and get the proper treatment.

What are the common causes of pain below the right rib cage?

Fortunately, pain below the right rib does not necessarily mean that there is something seriously wrong.

Most of the time, pain in the rib cage occurs due to a pulled muscle. It can happen during exercise, trying to lift heavy loads, or by simply sleeping wrong.

In this case, there is intermittent and sharp pain under the right rib cage when bending over, stretching, or moving the arms. The pain usually subsides on its own after some time, provided that rest is taken.

Another common cause of right rib pain is stomach gas and bloating. Everybody gets gas. Gas is produced when we swallow air when we eat and the various gases produced during digestion.

If this gas is produced in excess, it causes bloating and flatulence. Bloating in the stomach causes it to expand, pushing against the surrounding organs. This may be felt below the right rib cage as a fast shooting pain. The pain can be relieved by taking antacids and gastric meds.

These are the most common causes of pain under right rib cage when bending over. But there are many other possible causes. These might be caused by problems in one place in the body or a combination of multiple issues in various systems.

Now let’s look at ten causes for pain under right rib cage when bending over.

10 reasons behind pain below right rib cage

These are the most likely suspects among the myriad reasons that can cause pain in the rib cage. Chances are, the cause for your rib cage pain is listed in one of the entries below.

The causes are listed according to the body systems involved. So without further ado, let’s take a look:

Musculoskeletal cause

The most obvious reason for pain in the rib cage is muscle pain. The rib cage moves up and down during respiration. This movement is possible by the action of intercostal muscles that cover both the rib cage’s interior and exterior.

Like every other skeletal muscle in the body, the intercostal muscles can also be strained or injured. This can be caused by trauma, injury, or some inflammatory response. Pain in the intercostal muscles may be felt as pain below or behind the rib cage.

You can take simple painkillers to treat this type of pain. If the pain is caused by injury and remains for a long time, it may indicate a fracture in the rib. In this case, an x-ray is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Can You Have Chest Pain After Drinking Cold Water?

Gallbladder

The gallbladder is a small hollow pouch-like organ under the liver. Its primary function is to store bile produced in the liver and release it into the digestive system through a system of ducts.

Problems in the gallbladder can cause pain under the right side rib cage. This is called Biliary colic. You can feel this pain from below the right rib cage and up to the right shoulder blade. It is a referred pain emanating from the gallbladder.

The most common reason for gallbladder pain is gallstones. Gallstones occur when tiny precipitates of bile and cholesterol build up in the gallbladder and become solid. These tiny stone-like particles may grow to the point that they then block the bile duct.

This results in the cutting off of the flow of bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine. Due to the large amounts of unreleased bile, the gallbladder becomes swollen and inflamed. This condition is called Cholecystitis. If not treated quickly, cholecystitis may lead to Acute Obstructive Jaundice and other severe conditions.

Liver

The liver is one of the most important organs of the body. It is called the Laboratory of the body, as it is responsible for the metabolism of all chemical substances that enter the body.

The liver processes all nutrients, biochemical substances, toxins, and other harmful materials of the body. This is why the health of the liver predominantly affects the overall health of the body.

Some liver problems that might cause pain below the right rib cage are infections, Hepatitis, Steatosis (fatty liver), liver cirrhosis, or leaky liver. Conditions like Hepatic infections or Hepatitis occur when bacteria or viruses attack the liver. Hepatitis is a common viral infection that causes liver pain, jaundice and may cause liver damage.

Obesity is a common factor in many diseases. Being overweight and having a fat-rich diet can cause the build-up of fatty tissue in the liver. This is called Steatosis.

If left unchecked, the liver might increase in size, and steatosis may impair its normal function. This condition of the liver is called hepatomegaly. The increased size of the liver causes soreness and pain near the right rib cage.

Right Lung

The right lung in the human body is larger than the left lung. It consists of three lobes, whereas the left lung only has two lobes. The right bronchus leading to the right lung is also different from the left. It is shorter and wider.

These peculiarities of the right lung and bronchus make it more prone to infections. This is because infectious substances can travel to the right lung more easily. For this reason, the right lung is more susceptible to infections and abscesses.

right lung is a cause of pain under right rib cage when bending over

This causes diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. Also, the infections spread deeper into the right lung. This may cause pain and discomfort deep within the right side rib cage.

Gastroesophageal cause

One of the common causes of pain below the rib cage is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). It’s the condition where acid from the stomach travels back up the esophagus and causes irritation and pain.

Typically, the passage between the stomach and esophagus is guarded by the Lower Esophageal Sphincter. It acts like a valve, allowing food to enter the stomach but preventing acid from coming back up. However, if this sphincter is weakened, the acidic substances of the stomach can travel back up the esophagus.

Consequently, the irritation of the esophagus causes symptoms like heartburn and pain under the right rib cage. The treatment for GERD is mainly medication to reduce the acidity of the stomach. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and diet control are also advised.

Pancreas

The pancreas is an essential organ of the digestive system. It is responsible for the enzymes required for digestion and insulin, the hormone responsible for lowering blood sugar.

Diseases like acute pancreatitis can cause pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, near the right rib cage. In the case of pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed. This causes pain in the epigastric region as well as under the right rib cage.

Bowel

The right colic flexure is a sharp turn in the large intestine between the ascending and transverse colon. It’s located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, within the boundary of the right rib cage.

So as parts of the ascending colon and transverse colon pass below the right rib cage, bowel diseases may cause pain in that region. Common causes of bowel irritation and discomfort are indigestion and constipation.

Indigestion can occur if you overeat or eat anything that can irritate the inner lining of your intestines. This results in pain, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

On the other hand, constipation occurs when the stool becomes too hard and difficult to pass. This can happen in a low-fiber diet, drinking less water, or due to medication. Watching what you eat and drinking enough water can help sort out these problems and keep your gut healthy.

Kidney

Problems in the kidney may also cause pain under the right rib. Conditions of the kidney like kidney stones, infections, kidney diseases, cancers, etc., may cause referred pain under right rib cage when bending over.

pain under right rib cage when bending over

The kidneys are located in the rearmost part of the abdominal cavity. So they are closest to the back. So, in case of problems in the kidney, usually, the first sign is back pain. But this pain may also radiate to just below the right rib cage. 

Drugs and Alcohol

Drug abuse and alcohol consumption can cause severe heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal systems.

Smoking causes various heart and lung diseases like cardiac arrhythmias, heart attack, COPD, lung cancer, etc. Excessive alcohol can damage your liver and cause cirrhosis. As a symptom of these conditions, there might be pain below the right rib cage.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, as the uterus grows, it ascends from below the pelvis to the level of the xiphoid process of the rib cage.

There is pain and soreness in the rib cage due to pressure exerted from the uterus. As the pregnancy progresses, the uterus becomes larger and heavier. Also, the movement of the baby applies more pressure against the rib cage and the lungs. This may cause sharp pain and difficulty breathing.

Again, the breasts swell and become heavier during pregnancy. This may also cause soreness and pain in the rib cage.

What to do if you feel pain under right rib cage when bending over

Usually, pain under the right rib cage isn’t anything to be worried about. But if the pain seems to be getting worse or the condition doesn’t seem to be improving, it’s best to seek professional medical advice.

The most common reasons for right rib cage pain like muscle pain, indigestion, constipation, or acid reflux can be treated at home using over-the-counter medication.

More severe conditions like pneumonia, gallstones, infections, liver damage, etc., usually present with other symptoms like fever, jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting, etc. If you are experiencing pain below the right rib cage along with any of these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.

If you have pain under right rib when bending over, you should try these at-home remedies:

  • If your pain is due to muscle strain, try to get some rest. Don’t try to overextend your muscles, as it might worsen the pain. It should go away on its own. If the pain is stubborn, try taking some painkillers.
  • If you have frequent indigestion, find out which foods are irritating your stomach. Try to avoid these foods and opt for foods having less fat and spices.
  • In case of constipation, try eating foods with more fiber and drink more water. You can also try over-the-counter laxatives.
  • If you suffer from stomach acidity, try to avoid keeping your stomach empty for long periods. For heartburn, you can take antacids and PPI meds.
  • If your medications are causing pain under your rib cage, let your doctor know. Ask for a change in dosage or a new prescription.

When to call an Ambulance

If you are experiencing severe chest pain, you should contact your physician immediately. Pain under the ribs, along with other symptoms, could be a sign of a severe medical complication.

If you feel pain under right rib along with any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Uncontrolled cough or coughing blood
  • Disorientation or mental confusion
  • Palpitations
  • High fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish coloration of lips or fingertips 
  • Yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes

FAQ

When I bend down, why do my right ribs hurt?

Pain in the right ribs can be accused due to many reasons. But the most common reason could be a pulled muscle or strain.

When should I be concerned about pain under my right rib?

If the pain seems to worsen or take too long to heal, you should see a doctor.

Again, if you see other symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, dizziness, etc., it means some other underlying problem is causing your pain. In this case, proper diagnosis and treatment by a professional are needed.

What is dull pain under the right rib cage?

One of the reasons behind dull pain under right rib cage when bending over is Cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder.

The most common cause for cholecystitis is gallstones. If you are experiencing dull pain just below the right rib, consult a qualified physician for a proper diagnosis.

What causes pain in the right side under my ribs?

Several reasons can cause pain under the right side of the rib cage. It might be as simple as a pulled muscle in your rib cage to as complex as liver cirrhosis.

Try to find out what other symptoms you have to identify the cause in your case.

Conclusion

If you are feeling pain under right rib cage when bending over, then don’t worry. You are experiencing a symptom that almost every adult faces at some point in their life.

Pain under the right ribs is a common symptom of a multitude of health problems. So there is no reason to be worried.

By reading this article, you may have found the reason behind the pain in your rib cage. But prevention is always better than the cure.

Leading a healthy life, following a balanced diet, and taking regular exercise can prevent the majority of the illnesses that cause problems like pain in the rib cage. So try to eat healthily and be active.

Muhtasim Munir

As a doctor in the making, I feel fascinated by the advancements and expansion of medical science. This fuels my passion for trying to follow a health-conscious lifestyle. I love writing and sharing thoughts and ideas with the people I care about. If my work can reach out and help people to enjoy a healthy, happy life it will be an honor for me. Muhtasim Munir MBBS (3rd year) Armed Forces Medical College

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