Pain in Right Side Under Ribs

The rib cage consists of six pairs of bones on each side of your chest. This bony structure protects the organs inside the thoracic cavity, including the lungs and the heart. Sometimes, you may feel some pain under the ribs, which may make your feel uncomfortable. To determine what causes pain in right side under ribs, it may be helpful if knowing what structures are located in this area and the common conditions affecting them.

Causes of the Pain in Right Side Under Ribs

The right side of your chest and upper abdomen is the area where your right lung, your liver, gallbladder, right kidney and part of the colon are located. The pain in this part is often related with these organs.

1. Right Lung

Location: Your right lung occupies the right side of your chest cavity and it is protected by the ribs, muscles and tissues. Any condition that affects these structures may cause pain in right side under ribs.

  • A common condition that causes pain in this area is pleuritis, or inflammation of the pleura (the membrane covering the lung). It can cause a stabbing type of pain around the area of the lower ribs. This pain may be affected by deep breathing and coughing.
  • Another possible cause is pneumonia, which may be due to a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection of the lung, which leads to fever, cough and chest pain.
  • Pneumothorax, or collapse of one lung due to trauma or other causes, may manifest as a vague pain in the chest and the back, which becomes worse with breathing and movements.
  • Other possible causes of pain in right side under ribs include tuberculosis and other types of lung infection, pleural effusion, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

2. Liver

Location: This large organ lies in the right upper abdomen, just below the rib cage.

Various causes of pain affecting the liver include:

  • Trauma in the form of blunt or sharp injury to the upper right abdominal wall. Less common causes include diagnostic or surgical procedures involving the liver.
  • Viral hepatitis, an infection caused by various types of hepatitis viruses. Other infections involving the liver include bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections.
  • Alcoholic liver disease, which is often due to chronic alcoholism. It may manifest with right upper abdominal pain and liver tenderness.
  • Other conditions affecting the liver and causing pain in right side under ribs include fatty liver disease, pyogenic liver, liver cancer, liver cysts, intrahepatic cholestasis and hepatic arterial occlusion.

3. Kidney

Location: Your right kidney is located behind the liver, but more to the right side.

Various causes of pain affecting the kidney include:

  • Kidney stones, which develop from chronic build-up of chemicals in your urine. Large stones that remain lodged in the kidney and smaller stones that pass down through the ureter can cause intense pain.
  • Pyelonephritis, or kidney infection, is often caused by bacteria and is often due to an ascending type of infection in the urinary tract.
  • Renal hemorrhage or bleeding in your kidney is often due to severe abdominal trauma.
  • Other conditions affecting the kidney and causing pain in right side under ribs include hydronephrosis and polycystic kidney disease.

4. Gallbladder

Location: The gallbladder is located beneath the liver and is found within the right upper abdomen.

Various causes of pain affecting the gallbladder include:

  • Gallstones, which form from bile and cause partial or complete obstruction to the gallbladder or bile ducts.
  • Cholecystitis, or gallbladder inflammation, which may be caused by gallstones, or a gallbladder tumor.
  • Cholangitis, or bile duct inflammation, which may be due to an obstruction caused by a gallstone or bacterial/ parasitic infection.
  • Cancer of the gallbladder, which can cause obstruction and pain in right side under ribs.

5. Colon

Location: The right side of the large intestine (colon) consists of the ascending colon, the hepatic flexure and part of the transverse colon. These are found in the area under the right side of the rib cage.

Various causes of pain affecting the colon include:

  • Diverticulitis, or inflammation of pouches (diverticula) in the walls of the colon.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which cause chronic inflammation in the wall of the colon.
  • Infectious colitis, which occurs due to viral or bacterial infection and inflammation of the colon.
  • Other conditions affecting the colon and causing pain in right side under ribs include irritable bowel syndrome, colonic polyps, trapped gas, fecal impaction and colorectal cancer.

Other Causes

  • Broken rib. Broken ribs in the right side of the chest, which may be due to any accident, repetitive trauma or movements related to certain sports, can lead to pain in right side under ribs. Seek medical helpimmediately after a fall or crushing injury since this may cause injury to the lung and may lead to a life-threatening situation.
  • Costochondritis. This is the most common cause of pain around the ribs, which is due to inflammation of the tissues and muscles in the rib cage. It may be caused by excessive coughing from viral infections.
  • During pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, as well as an enlarging uterus and breasts, may right rib cage pain.
  • During running. Running can cause a stitch, or a sharp pain under the right rib cage. This may be due to over-hydrating, dehydration, overeating, or uneven breathing.
  • More possible causes include abdominal muscle injury or strain, shingles, nerve root compression, peritonitis, intra-abdominal abscess and pleural effusion. 

When Should You Worry About It?

Pain in right side under ribs that does not go away or worsens after a few days may be related to some medical condition that needs further evaluation and treatment. Contact your doctor and tell him about other symptoms that occur with the pain for proper diagnosis.

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