How Can You Tell If Pain Is in Your Back or in Your Rib Cage?

Rib cage pain produces an achy, dull or sharp constant pain that can be felt above the navel and below the chest, explains Healthline. Back pain may also produce a sharp pain, but the pain is often intensified with activity or movement, according to WebMD. Back pain is commonly in one spot of the back or stretches throughout the back, whereas rib cage pain is centered near the ribs on the front portion of the body.

Rib cage pain is often centralized near the ribs, and the pain is still apparent without movement, explains Healthline. Some patients experience sharp pains when breathing when there is a rib fracture or an injury to the rib cage.

Back pain often starts suddenly and slowly worsens over time, often occurring with stiffness or muscle tightness, according to WebMD. Some patients experience numbness or tingling in the belly, chest, legs or arms with back pain or weakness in the arms or legs. Bladder control may also be affected by back pain.

Pain in the rib cage is often associated with an inflamed lining of the lungs, inflamed rib cartilage, injuries to the chest or a rib fracture, explains Healthline. Both back pain and rib cage pain can evolve due to muscle spasms, but the location of the spasm can help patients identify the cause of the pain. Rib pain is typically centered on the front of the body, while back pain extends from the neck to the lower back.