Pain in the Right Side of the Chest

Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms reported in the hospital. More often than not, laypersons think that chest pains are the manifestion of heart and lung diseases.

This is not entirely true especially if the pain is on the right side of the chest. After all, heart and lungs are not the only organs found inside the chest.

Chest pain is associated with a lot of diagnoses. Some of them may be simple diagnoses that require no or little treatment. Some of them may be critical that could lead to death if not medically unattended.

Chest ache should never be neglected even if you keep on coming back to the hospital because of it. Better be sure than sorry because your life is on the line.

Heart Problems – Causes and Solution

Myocardial Infarction (MI)

MI, more commonly known as heart attack, is a medical emergency which occurs when there is an occlusion in the blood vessels that supply the heart. The myocardium (heart muscle) is being deprived of blood and oxygen that it needs in order to function and survive. This causes the severe crashing chest pain. Area/s of the heart become ischemic and myocardial cells may die if not immediately treated.

In MI, the left side of the chest is almost always reported as painful. However, it is still important to consider the slightest chance that pain on the right side of the chest may be due to MI.

Also see : Massive heart attack

Lung Problems – Causes and Solution

Pulmonary Hypertension

This refers to an increased pressure within the blood vessels of the lungs. The stabbing pain on the right chest is like that of the angina.


When the lung is injured, it releases air within the chest cavity. This is a condition called pneumothorax. This causes chest pain that is exacerbated by breathing and is accompanied by hypotension. It is literally painful to breathe when the patient suffers from this. Measures are performed in order to release the air that is trapped inside the chest cavity and to prevent further damage to the lungs.

Pulmonary Embolism

This is a blood clot that travelled from a different part of the body to the lungs. This causes the patient to have right sided chest pain, difficulty of breathing, tachycardia, fever, acute pleuritis, shock, or even death.

Pleuritis or Pleurisy

Pleuritis or pleurisy is the inflammation of pleura or the lining that surrounds the lung. The lungs expand and partially deflate as you breathe. That goes with the pleurae since they cover and protect the lungs. If these are inflamed, the person will feel sharp stabbing chest pain especially during deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing.

Causes of pleuritis or pleurisy include pneumonia, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.

If the cause is bacterial in nature, antibiotics will be prescribed by the doctor. If the cause is viral, the patient will be given symptomatic treatment since virus goes away on its own in due time. If the cause is something else, treat it in order to get rid of the pain on the right side of the chest.

Musculoskeletal Problems

Rib Subluxation and Fracture

Rib subluxation or displacement is a common cause of right sided chest pain, especially on the upper portion of the chest. Bending forward exacerbates the pain but it goes away within 1-2 weeks.

Rib fracture is worse because the pain is felt just by breathing or coughing.

Right sided chest pain due to rib subluxation and fracture may be relieved by warm compress, bandaging, and analgesics.

For further information see : Pain under Right Rib Cage


Costochondritis is the inflammation between the costal cartilage and ribs by rubbing against each other. Though not a serious condition, costochondritis is painful. The pain over the right side of the chest is diffused and not only concentrated on a certain area. A simple warm compress relieves the pain.

Also see: Breastbone Pain (Sternum Pain)

Gastrointestinal Causes and Treatment

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is also known as heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion. This is a condition wherein acidic contents of the stomach go up to the esophagus, leaving your mouth with a sour taste.

This is manifested as right sided chest pain with burning sensation because of the proximity of the esophagus to the heart, hence its name heartburn. The esophagus and heart also have the same nerve network.

GERD occurs after overeating, lying down immediately after a meal, and eating fatty or spicy foods. It can also be triggered by alcohol, cigarette smoking, and stress. Obese and pregnant women are particular at risk.

Treatment of GERD is primarily avoidance of foods and drinks that may trigger it such as fatty and spicy foods, coffee, tea, and alcohol. It is also important to stay upright a few hours after eating. Avoid cigarette smoking and stress. Follow a healthy lifestyle.

Also see : Right Side Abdominal Pain – Cause and Treatment

Cholelithiasis and Cholecystitis

The term “chole” refers to the gallbladder. “Lith” refers to stone and the suffix “-itis” refers to inflammation.
Essentially, cholelithiasis or gallstones develop first before cholecystitis because it is the gallstones that block the passageway of bile from the gallbladder. Since there is a blockage, gallbladder becomes irritated and inflamed. Fat women in their 40s are usually at risk.

The gallbladder is located beneath the liver on the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. As a result, problems with the gallbladder manifest as pain over the right upper quadrant of the abdomen and right lower part of the chest.

Cholesterol and bile crystallize to form gallstones, that is why abdominal and chest pains intensify as the person eats fatty foods.

Cholelithiasis and cholecystitis should not be left untreated. Medications that dissolve the gallstones will be prescribed by the doctor. If severe enough, it warrants the need for cholecystectomy or removal of the gallbladder.

Also see : Problems after Gallbladder Removal (cholecystectomy)

Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD)

PUD refers to the presence of painful sores along the gastric or intestinal mucosa. As a result, the patient experiences recurrent abdominal and chest pain on the right side. PUD is caused by excessive use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), alcohol, and cigarettes. Antacids provide relief by increasing the gastric pH or making it less acidic.

Problems of the Pancreas and Liver


Pancreatitis refers to the inflammation of the pancreas. This occurs when pancreatic enzymes get activated before being secreted into the small intestines, making these enzymes “eat up” the pancreas. This leads to inflammation of the pancreas and swelling of a portion of the abdomen. Severe pain is felt on the abdomen and right side of the chest. This is exacerbated by lying down and relieved by leaning forward.


Caused by a hepatitis virus, patients suffering from this condition commonly experience “popping” of the right side of the chest, ribs, shoulder, and back. The liver is located in the right upper quadrant, that is why the right side of the body suffers more than the left.

Other Factor Contributing to Right Sided Chest Pain

Also see : Liver pain causes and treatment

Viral Infection

Viruses that cause shingles, hepatitis, influenza, rhinitis, etc. may make the hosts suffer by letting them experience sharp stabbing pain over the right side of the chest that radiates to the shoulders, arms, neck, and jaws. Antivirals are prescribed to get rid of the virus.



Published on by under Pain Management.
Article was last reviewed on September 11th, 2016.

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