Sudden intense back/rib cage pain?
December 12, 2009 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Medical question: I'm a 17 year old male and last night my rib cage and upper back began to hurt like never before. I thought a night of sleep of help, but it hasn't. Should I be worried?

By 'hurt' I mean my movement is extremely constricted. turning my body to the left or right causes intense pain in my back, bending down or up causes the same pain in my chest and back. I have never had pains like this before and they started almost abruptly last night.

Should I see a doctor? Is this normal at all?

Also, I was dancing at a party last night, if that helps. Thank you, DoctorFilter.
posted by Taft to Health & Fitness (27 answers total)
Any sudden change means that you should go to a doctor. No matter what it is.
posted by Solomon at 12:14 PM on December 12, 2009

Does it hurt to inhale deeply?
posted by milarepa at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2009


Nope. In fact, it relieves the pain slightly.
posted by Taft at 12:21 PM on December 12, 2009

Sounds like you are having muscle spasms. If breathing deeply makes it worse, it could be something else-pleurisy (not so bad) or pneumothorax (bad). Either way, something this severe and sudden rates a trip straight into urgent care. Don't put it off til Monday office hours.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2009

Ok, if it hurts very badly, I think you should go to a doctor. If it hurt to inhale, I was going to suggest that it could be a spontaneously collapsed lung. If it doesn't hurt more to inhale, it seems unlikely that that's it, but, of course, IANAD.
posted by milarepa at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2009

Shoulda previewed.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2009

Go see a doctor, especially if the pain is near your neck. Among other things, there's meningitis to consider.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2009

New info:

I just talked to my dad about it, and he asked if I did anything else besides dancing. I do remember doing a forwards roll (or a summersault) and arching my back when it just began hurting. Did I cause this and/or make it worse?

Also, my dad doesn't think this needs a doctors visit, is he correct?
posted by Taft at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2009

My husband had a sharp pain in his ribs, which he thought was a pulled muscle, and it turned out to be a pulmonary embolism. If you are in a lot of pain, go to the emergency room or at least see a doctor.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2009

my dad doesn't think this needs a doctors visit, is he correct?

No, he is not.
posted by maqsarian at 12:40 PM on December 12, 2009

you probably pulled a muscle. See if it gets better in a couple of days. For most muscle problems doctors cant do much except give you strong pain meds.

Most new research states itas better to go out and deal with the pain .It might hurt a lot but using the muscle will make it repair itself faster and help make it stronger so that you dont hurt it again.
posted by majortom1981 at 12:42 PM on December 12, 2009

You know what? If this could possibly have anything to do with the organs that live underneath your ribcage (i.e., your lungs and heart), and you don't go to the doctor but the problem keeps getting worse, you could die, ok? So go to the doctor. Sure it *could* be a pulled muscle, but waiting it out is NOT ok if it's *not* a pulled muscle.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2009

Most new research states itas better to go out and deal with the pain ...

... this would only apply once a competent, qualified medical professional has examined OP not-over-the-internet and determined that it's not-just-probably a pulled muscle.

If you are concerned, see a doctor.
posted by onshi at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2009

I'd go to the doctor and get it over with. It's kind of like when you have to pee really bad in the middle of the night. You can just get up and go...or you can lay around half asleep, delaying the inevitable and worrying about it the whole time.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2009

Do some research on the Medline Plus website on your malady. They have great doctor centered advice,
posted by effluvia at 1:13 PM on December 12, 2009

majortom, your response is full of dangerous stupid.

One might argue the ethics of making up an answer when addressing a do-I-dump-him question, but why would you come in here to discourage someone from seeing a doctor?
posted by Sallyfur at 1:30 PM on December 12, 2009

I'm not sure what part of your ribcage hurts. Last year, I had sudden-onset, intense pain just under the right side of my ribcage, and in the middle of my back. Turned out to be gallstones.

Even if it is "just" muscles, you might get faster relief if a doctor gives you muscle relaxers.
posted by not that girl at 1:32 PM on December 12, 2009

If you have to ask if you need to go to the doctor, then you do.
posted by cmoj at 2:32 PM on December 12, 2009

I have a muscle in my back that does this to me when it spasms. I take ibuprofen for it and wait for it to go away (usually a day or so).

If you have insurance, go to a doctor. No question.

If you're uninsured and it's going to cost you some hundreds and your parents won't help out... honestly, if it were me, I'd give it a day.

If your parents will chip in a hundred or so, check out Urgent Care. It's usually much much cheaper than the ER but its hours aren't as long (read: go now, instead of waiting until midnight when you can't stand the pain any more.) Even if it is just a muscle spasm, they can give you a relaxant or something that will let you get to sleep.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:44 PM on December 12, 2009

I really hesitate to tell people to go to the doctor at the drop of a hat. Yes, it's the good CYA answer, but for many of us, it's the doctor OR rent. Not as easy a decision as it's made out to be on metafilter.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:46 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

but why would you come in here to discourage someone from seeing a doctor?

You weren't addressing me but my answer would be that you don't need to see the docter everytime you stub your toe or somesuch. Another good answer is that doctors are expensive and common sense could dictate a much cheaper and simpler solution: if someone does something strenous then something begins to hurt it shouldn't take a doctor to realize it is most likely a strain/sprain.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it close to the worst pain you've had in your life? Does it hurt like hell to laugh? It could be pleurisy. Go see doc and get some antibiotics.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:10 PM on December 12, 2009

It sounds like you have injured your back, likely something with the thoracic vertebrae if you're feeling pain in your ribs and with twisting. Whether you should see a doctor unfortunately depends a lot on what the problem is: if it's a strained muscle they'll just give you some over-the-counter NSAID and tell you to take it easy (not worth it). If it's a mislocated disc you could need an osteopath to correct it (worth it). If it's something more serious, it's definitely worth it. But, of course, you won't really know what the problem is until you go.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:16 PM on December 12, 2009

If you're near Portland, OR, there is a free chiropractic clinic downtown on W Burnside St. It's staffed by interns of the chiropractic college and we deal with this kind of pain all the time there.
posted by olecranon at 4:26 PM on December 12, 2009

I once woke up with an agonising pain in my chest. Any movement caused absolutely excruciating sharp pain, but lying still kept the pain at moderate levels. I asked my wife to call an ambulance, but she decided to call my doctor instead (wtf? if someone wants an ambulance - call a fucking ambulance!) The receptionist promised that the doctor would phone back in 10 minutes. Since I was somewhat comfortable lying still, and complaining would have caused more pain, I meekly lay there while she waited for the doc to call. By the time she called, my pain was already subsiding and within 30 minutes it was gone! I'd been playing softball the evening before, and the verdict was that it was probably a trapped nerve.

The tables were turned last year when my wife suddenly complained of agonising chest pains. I called an ambulance, and it turned out to be her gallbladder. Apparently, gallbladder pain is one of the worst possible pains - it's exacerbated by eating fatty food.

If I were you, I'd go and see a doctor. While you are in the waiting room, start thinking about how you can emigrate to a country with a less mediƦval medical system.
posted by mr. strange at 4:31 PM on December 12, 2009

This could be a pulled muscle or a back injury, but if it started suddenly last night long after you had been dancing it might be more serious. It could be a pulmonary embolism, as leahwrenn said. It could be gallstones. Or kidney stones. The internet can't diagnose you, and you can't diagnose yourself. Sudden pain is not normal. Go to a doctor.
posted by paulg at 4:40 PM on December 12, 2009

Precordial Catch Syndrome.
posted by Nameless at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2009

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