Rib Cage Tightness, Tight Band Around The Rib Cage – Anxiety Symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 19, 2021

Rib cage tightness, tension, aches, pains:

This symptom is often described as:

  • It feels like there is a tightness, tension, aches, and/or pains in the ribs or rib cage area.
  • It can also feel like there is a tight band around the ribs or rib cage area
  • It can also feel like there is a pressure in the ribs and rib cage.
  • It can also feel like there is a burning sensation in the ribs and rib cage area.
  • It can also feel like there is a knot or 'stitch' in the ribs and rib cage area.
  • It can also feel like your ribs or rib cage area is bruised and sore.

This rib cage tightness symptom can persistently affect one area of the ribs or rib cage only, can shift and affect another area or areas of the ribs or rib cage, and can migrate all over and affect many areas of the ribs and rib cage over and over again.

This rib cage tightness symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might feel a tightness in the ribs and rib cage once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

This rib cage tightness symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This rib cage tightness symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

This rib cage tightness symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This rib cage tightness symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

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What causes the anxiety symptom rib cage tightness?

Medical Advisory

When this rib cage tightness symptom is caused by anxiety, anxiety causes the body to produce the stress response (also known as the fight or flight response).[1][2] The stress response stresses the body. Stress causes the body's muscles to contract and tighten, including those in the ribs and rib cage area.

When the body becomes chronically stressed, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation, the body can exhibit a wide variety of muscle tension symptoms.[3][4] This rib cage tightness symptom is an example.

How to get rid of the rib cage tightness anxiety symptom?

Because the rib cage tightness symptom is just a symptom of elevated stress, it needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when you reduce your stress and give your body ample time to calm down and recover from an active stress response and/or sustained stress. As your body's stress returns to a more normal level, symptoms of stress subside, including the rib cage tightness anxiety symptom. Therefore, this symptom needn't be a cause for concern.

Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website is our anxiety symptoms chapter. It contains detailed information about all anxiety symptoms, including what they are, why they occur, what you can do to eliminate them, and how many people experience them (the percentage of people who experience each anxiety symptom). Our anxiety symptoms chapter includes a more detailed description and explanation about the rib cage tightness anxiety symptom.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Rib Cage Tightness, Tight Band Around The Rib Cage.

References

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Berczi, Istvan. “Walter Cannon's ‘Fight or Flight Response’ - ‘Acute Stress Response.’” Walter Cannon's "Fight or Flight Response" - "Acute Stress Response", 2017.

3. Yaribeygi, Habib, et al. “The Impact of Stress on Body Function: A Review.” EXCLI Journal, Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors, 2017.

4. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018.