Skip to content

Pain Under Left Rib: Here are Possible Causes

pain under left rib


  1. Pain Under Left Rib: Introduction
  2. Possible Underlying Conditions for Pain Under Left Rib
  3. Pain Under Left Rib: Diagnosis
  4. Treatment for Pain Under Left Rib
  5. Warning Signs for Pain Under Left Rib
  6. The Bottom Line

Pain Under Left Rib: Introduction

Your rib cage has 24 ribs, 12 on each side of your body. They protect the organs beneath them. Your heart, left lung, pancreas, spleen, stomach, and left kidney lies underneath your left rib cage (1). When any of these organs are infected, injured, or inflamed, you experience pain under left rib. However, feeling pain in that area usually doesn’t indicate a heart attack.

Possible Underlying Conditions for Pain Under Left Rib


The condition refers to an inflammation of the cartilage that attaches your breastbone and ribs (2). There are several causes of Costochondritis:

  • An Infection
  • Physical Injury
  • Arthritis

Costochondritis usually causes sharp, stabbing pain under left rib. Your pain may get worse if you cough, sneeze, or press your ribs.


Pancreatitis (3) is an inflammation of your pancreas. It is a gland that secretes enzyme and digestive juices into your small intestine. These juices help to breakdown the food during digestion. The organ is located near your small intestine in the upper left body. There are several causes of Pancreatitis:

  • An Injury
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Gallstones

Pancreatitis pain usually intensifies after you eat. The pain may come and go or remain constant. There are several additional symptoms of this condition:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Ruptured Spleen and Splenic Infarct

Your spleen helps remove old or damaged red blood cells and produces white blood cells for your immunity.

There are usually no other symptoms for enlarged spleen or splenomegaly other than feeling fullness after only eating a small amount. However, you are more likely to experience pain under left rib if your spleen ruptures. An enlarged spleen is more prone to rupture than a normal-sized spleen (4).

There are several causes of an enlarged spleen.

  • Viral infections (e.g. mononucleosis)
  • Bacterial Infections (e.g. Syphilis)
  • Parasitic Infections (e.g. Malaria)
  • Blood diseases
  • Liver diseases

The area may also feel tender if your spleen ruptures. You may also experience low blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, and blurry vision.

The most common cause of spleen rupture is a trauma. Make sure to seek immediate medical attention since it is an emergency.

You are most likely to experience pain under left rib if you have a splenic infarction. It is a rare condition where a portion of your spleen becomes necrotic or dies. Your spleen necrotized if your blood supply is compromised due to trauma or arterial blockages.


The condition refers to an inflammation of your stomach lining (5). You may also experience a burning pain in your stomach and an uncomfortable sense of fullness in your upper abdomen. There are several causes of Gastritis, including:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Frequent use of NSAIDs
  • Alcohol abuse
  • (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Kidney stones or infection

When your kidneys are inflamed or infected, you may experience the pain in front. You may experience pain under left rib if your left kidney is involved (6).

When calcium and salt deposits are hardened, they form into stones. It can cause pain as the stones move out of your kidneys towards your bladder. Besides causing pain under left rib, kidney stones can also cause:

  • An urge to urinate
  • Bloody urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain

When bacteria from your urinary tract reach your kidneys, kidney infections occur. Further, anything that obstructs your urine flow like kidney stones can also cause infection in your kidneys. Other symptoms indicate a kidney infection, including:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


A fluid-filled sac called the pericardium surrounds your heart (7). When there is an inflammation in this sac, it referred to as Pericarditis. When inflamed, it can rub against your heart that can lead to pain under left rib. The pain may be dull or stabbing, that gets worse when lying down. The possible causes of Pericarditis include:

  • Infection
  • Injury
  • Some blood thinners
  • Anti-seizure medications


Pleurisy is a condition when tissues covering your lunges becomes inflamed (8). It can occur due to viral, bacterial, or fungal pneumonia, malignancy, or pulmonary infarction relating to the blood clot in your lung.

If you have Pleurisy on the left side, it can cause pain under left rib. However, one of the primary symptoms is sharp and stabbing pain when you breathe. If you are experiencing any intense chest pain while breathing, we advise you to see your doctor immediately.

Pain Under Left Rib: Diagnosis

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to find the cause of your pain under left rib. It will help them to check any signs of swelling, inflammation, primarily due to Costochondritis.

To rule out any serious condition related to your heart, your doctor may use an electrocardiogram. It will measure your heart’s electrical activity.

Your doctor may also take your blood and urine samples for analysis. The results of these testing can alert your doctor for an underlying condition. It includes kidney problems, Gastritis, or Pancreatitis. To rule out Gastritis, they may also take your stool sample or perform endoscopy. In endoscopy, the doctor inserts a long flexible tube with a camera through your mouth to look at your stomach lining.

Treatment for Pain Under Left Rib

The treatment for your pain under left rib depends on its cause. If you have any inflammation, your physician most likely will recommend NSAIDs to reduce the pain.

In some instances of bacterial infection, you may require antibiotic treatment. In rare cases, you may require surgical intervention. For example, your doctor may need to remove your kidney stones surgically if they are too large to pass through your body directly.

Warning Signs for Pain Under Left Rib

Even though it is usually nothing serious, pain under left rib sometimes may indicate a medical emergency. If you have any of below symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Mental Confusion
  • Sweating excessively
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

The Bottom Line

Since there are several organs in the upper left part of your body, it is common to feel pain under left rib cage. In many cases, it is only due to a treatable condition. However, you need to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you experience severe pain. Especially if your pain is worsening or it lasts more than 24 hours.