Ask the expert


I have a small lump on my ribs

I have come across what seems to be a small lump on my ribs on the left side. I've had it for months and it won’t go away. I haven’t injured myself, it doesn’t hurt when I touch it, but I can feel something there when I move around. Any idea what it could be?

1 January 2019

The most common reason for a lump forming on the ribs is something known as a lipoma, which is a collection of fatty tissue. This type of lump can lie beneath the surface of the skin covering a rib. They are usually painless, freely mobile under your fingers and stay the same over time. 

Other causes of a lump on your rib could be:

  • a bone spur - these are usually hard, fixed, i.e. they don’t move under your fingers and tender
  • an inflamed muscle
  • a neuroma -  less common, this is a lump or mass formed of nerve cells.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to diagnose what the exact problem is in your case without performing an examination. Our advice would be to visit your GP. They’ll be able to examine you and if necessary perform further tests, such as a small biopsy of the lump, to make an accurate diagnosis and to guide any treatment if required.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses

Sources and further reading

Lumps and swellings – NHS factsheet
Bone spur – NHS factsheet

Useful resources

Musculoskeletal centre – AXA PPP healthcare  

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