A dull pain under your left rib cage can be quite alarming. There are various reasons why a person feels pain beneath his rib cage. This is not always due to a broken bone or a muscle tear or something wrong with your heart. The article discusses some of the common causes of dull pain under your left rib cage and what to do about them.
Common Causes of a Dull Pain under Your Left Rib Cage
Peptic ulcer is one of the common causes of a dull pain under left rib cage. It is medically defined as a sore within the lining of the stomach (also referred to as gastric ulcer) or upper portion of small intestine (duodenal ulcer). Peptic ulcer is usually caused due to infection by bacterium Helicobacter pylori. The risk of developing peptic ulcer is increased in persons who take painkillers such as NSAIDs, who drink excessive amount of alcohol, who smoke or chew tobacco or those suffering from any other serious illness such as liver, lung or kidney disease.
Diagnosis: Apart from abdominal pain, you may also experience bloating, vomiting, a loss of appetite and passage of dark or black stools. Your physician can also do some tests like endoscopy to confirm his diagnosis.
Treatment: To treat the ulcer you will be required to make lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol and quitting tobacco and take medicines. Severe cases may require surgery. An antibiotic is typically prescribed if the ulcer is caused by a bacterial infection. Antacids, Proton pump inhibitors and H-2 blockers may also be prescribed to control the acidity of the stomach.
Costochondritis is another cause of dull pain under left rib cage. It is an inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the rib to the breastbone. This condition can be caused by many reasons including trauma, arthritis, fibromyalgia or an infection.
Symptoms: In some cases, costochondritis may manifest symptoms similar to a heart attack. But, if the pain occurs on the left side of the breastbone and more than one rib is affected then it is more likely to be costochondritis. The pain may also worsen if you take a deep breath or cough.
There are no specific tests to diagnose the condition. However, you doctor may request a CT scan, X-ray or MRI to rule out other causes.
Treatment: NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most commonly prescribed drugs to relieve costochondritis. Physical therapy such as stretching exercises and nerve stimulation may also be included in the treatment.
Angina Pectoris/ Angina/ Chest Pain
Sometimes a dull pain under left rib cage may be a symptom of angina or heart pain. Angina or simply chest pain occurs when there’s an insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle. This is caused by coronary artery disease. The chest pain is usually accompanied by abdominal pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and sweating. To diagnose this medical condition, your doctor will order tests such as chest X-ray, stress test, electrocardiogram (EKG) and some blood tests.
Management: Usually by making some healthy lifestyle changes you can help manage this medical condition. However, your doctor may also prescribe medications such as nitrates or beta-blockers to control the pain. In severe cases, surgery is required as a treatment.
Diverticulitis is another important cause of dull pain under your left rib cage. This medical condition is defined as the inflammation of the diverticula, which are tiny, bulging pouches that may be formed in your large intestine (colon). The diverticula are usually formed in persons who are 40 years or older. Once the diverticula are infected, inflammation eventually takes place.
Symptoms: The symptoms are a fever accompanied by chills, digestive problems such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation, nausea and vomiting. A blood test and CT scan is usually done by a medical professional to confirm the diagnosis of diverticulitis.
Treatment: For mild diverticulitis, medications will be prescribed by your doctor. He may also recommend a liquid diet during the initial stages of the treatment. A hot compress is commonly recommended to relieve the pain. If you’re suffering from chronic or severe diverticulitis, you may need to undergo surgery.
Splenic Flexure Syndrome or Gas in the Colon
Splenic flexure syndrome or gas in the colon can also cause dull pain under left rib cage. There are several factors that may result in gas in colon such as food poisoning, eating too fast and eating certain foods containing lactose.
Symptoms: Aside from the pain, you may also feel a drumming sound when you tap your abdomen. You may also experience digestive problems such as bloating, flatulence and belching. Constipation, diarrhea and abdominal cramps may also be present.
Treatment: The most common treatment for this condition is a change in diet. Medications that can help bloating can also be taken. Some people have also tried leaning over a chair or a fence to get rid of the gas.
Pinched Nerve in the Thoracic Spine
When too much pressure is applied to a nerve, pinched or compressed nerve occurs. This is typically caused by an injury, improper posture, and stress from a recurring work or activity. Pain, numbness and a tingling sensation are the signs and symptoms of a pinched nerve. Muscle weakness may also be felt within the affected area. Your doctor may order some tests such as MRI, nerve conduction study and electromyography to confirm the diagnosis. Typically, getting sufficient rest is enough to treat this medical condition. NSAIDs may also be prescribed to relieve your discomfort. Surgery may be required if the symptoms persist for several weeks or months.
What about sharp pains?
Some of the common causes of a sharp pain under left rib cage include a broken rib, damaged spleen, heartburn or acid reflux, IBS, kidney stones and lung problems.