What Causes Cramps In The Ribs? Its Treatment And Prevention

Sudden, involuntary contraction of muscle is called cramp. Rib cramps is a condition when muscles beneath the ribs cramp. Person experiences stitching pain in the rib cage. Hence it is also called as “side stitches”. Pain can be felt on both sides but usually it is felt on right side. A more severe stitch is felt like stabbing pain. Some may feel just pulling sensation or dull ache or mild cramp.

Most often rib cramp occurs while exercising, running or cycling. Novice exercisers are more likely to get rib cramps. Whenever you feel rib cramps, you should stop exercising till you feel better.

Take preventive measures to avoid cramps. In spite of preventive measures if you continue to get rib cramps then consult the doctor to rule out any underlying disease.

Causes Of Rib Cramps

Rib cramps occur when the muscles of the rib cage are stressed or overworked due to any activity. Vigorous breathing during exercise may lead to spasm in muscles. It can also occur due to poor oxygen flow, resulting from improper breathing.

While exercising, the content of the abdomen bounce, hence the diaphragm is stressed due to pulling weight of the intestines and other organs in the abdomen. Due to this diaphragm and other related muscles may go in spasm.

The other factors which contribute to spasm are drinking less water which may lead to dehydration, over-eating just before exercise and taking up exercise that may not be suitable for you.

Treatment And Prevention Of Cramps In Ribs


  • Stop exercising as soon as you feel the cramp.
  • Do mild stretching if possible.
  • Give gentle massage to the area.
  • Try to relax your body as much as you can.
  • Take sips of the drink containing electrolytes.
  • Breathe evenly and steadily.
  • If necessary apply muscle relaxant ointment locally.
  • Consult the doctor if pain persists or if the pain is not related with obvious cause such as vigorous activity.


  • Take hot water bath before any activity.
  • Warm up.
  • Do stretching exercise before and after any vigorous activity. Twisting from side to side and bending backward at waist will help the stretching of abdominal muscles.
  • Eat 2 to 3 hours before exercising. If you are hungry then have little quantity and wait for 30 minutes before starting exercise.
  • Drink plenty of water. One should take sips of water or any electrolyte containing drink during exercise.
  • Strengthen your abdominal and back muscles by taking up gradual exercises.
  • Breathing exercise such as Pranayam will help to strengthen the intercostal muscles and improve oxygen flow to all the cells of the body.
  • Maintain good posture.

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