Severe Pain In Left Rib Cage?


Asked by BRENDA

Severe Pain In Left Rib Cage?

I'm having severe pain in my left rib cage with shortness of breath. I'm coughing up phlegm and in terrible pain, along with feeling short of breath despite being on oxygen at night. What could it be? Is this a medical emergency?


We have seen a number of patients with a prolonged respiratory illness characterized by severe coughing spasms with production of significant amounts of mucus.   In most cases the cause is a virus, but with symptoms that just seem to go on forever, doctors are compelled to go further, using medication to suppress the cough, dry the secretions, reduce the inflammation (steroids), and even resort to broad spectrum antibiotics.   The essence of time seems to be the best cure.

Having said all of the above, if a patient has the symptoms as described without improvement, then further evaluation should be considered to be sure there is no treatable cause that might be overlooked.   A chest x-ray will be helpful in detecting pneumonia (viral and bacterial), collapsed lung, or other major intra-thoracic problems.

The pain you are experiencing is from a bruised or cracked rib, or a separation of the cartilage from the rib itself.   This is caused by your severe cough.   Bracing yourself with a pillow, thus immobilizing that portion of the chest wall will help during cough spells.   A heating pad (not too hot) and ibuprofen for the pain will also be helpful.   This discomfort will take weeks to clear.

So be sure to follow up with your doctor for further evaluation, if necessary, and get the results of the studies done so far.

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