The sternum can also be called the breastbone or chest bone. It's a flat bone located in your chests central potion just below your collarbone. When you look at the anatomy of a human being, you will be able to easily locate the sternum as it joins both sides of yourrib bonesthrough the cartilage.
If you experience pain in your sternum, the problem can either be acute and will not last for long or chronic meaning that it will last long. At times, the pain is associated with clicking or cracking sensations at your sternum bone.
Causes and Treatments of Sternum Pain
Although pain in the sternum is listed as being a common symptom of chest pain, you should bear in mind that this kind of pain is completely different to the one felt from angina or cardiac-related chest pain.
Symptoms: This is a condition characterized by inflammation of the junction where your upper ribs and cartilage join. Symptoms include reproducible tenderness each time the joints of your ribs are pressed, chest pain that is aggravated when there is movement and sharp pain at the front of your chest wall. You will also realize that the pain keeps getting worse each time you cough or take a deep breath. Therefore, this pain can also mimic pain caused when a person is suffering from a heart attack.
Treatments: Use conservative local ice or heat to relieve symptoms. Use naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) for inflammation reduction and avoid unnecessary activities or exercises because they tend to worsen the symptoms.
Symptoms: Pleurisy can be caused by inflammation of inner walls of the chest consisting serum (pleura), and many other chest and lung conditions. Chest pains each time you breathe and feel no pain between breathes, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills & fever and appetite loss.
Treatments: Treatment depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the condition has been caused by pneumonia, antibiotics will be used to treat the infection. You can also use some OTC anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the symptoms and signs. You should also get lots of rest and lie on the side causing the pain.
3. Sternoclavicular Joint Injury
Symptoms: Mild or severe pain can be caused to your sternum when this joint experiences trauma but all this depends on the injury severity. To be more precise, if your SC joints are dislocated, either on the posterior or anterior, it may result in serious sternum pain.
Treatment: Immobilization of pain medication, sling and ice can be used to treat the injury. There are, however, operative treatments that can be conducted although they are not common.
4. Collarbone Trauma
Symptoms: Your collarbone is situated at your chest's top portion, between the scapula and sternum. This kind of trauma is common and in most cases happens at birth caused by a fall or an accident experienced and can cause pain in your sternum.
Treatments: You should visit your doctor immediately for appropriate diagnosis and further treatment. However, the pain that came as a result of collarbone trauma can be treated by having the bone correctly fixed.
5. Sternum Fractures
Symptoms: This kind of fracture is as a result of a fracture of the breastbone caused by physical trauma. Sternum injury is only possible if it has been hit directly by a hard object using a lot of force. The sternum fracture may leave it in pieces thus causing a lot of pain.
Treatments: Your doctor may prescribe analgesics which are anti-inflammatory non-steroidal medications and opiates. You will also be restricted from physical activity for some weeks.
Symptoms: Symptoms include a burning chest pain that normally occurs after you have eaten and it an also occur during the night. You can also experience pain that keeps getting worse when you bend over or lay down. This pain can also radiate to the sternum.
Treatments: You can take OTC drugs like antacids so that the stomach acid will be neutralized. Also, take medications that hinder production of acid and ones that will help your esophagus heal.
7. Sternum Inflammation
Symptoms: They include tenderness upon pressing your rib joints and sternum. When you also feel pain in your 4th, 5th and 6th rib and the pain increases with every movement you make or when you breathe. The pain also eases when there is no movement.
Treatments: Warm or ice compresses are applied to the inflamed site. You can also use anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. Your physician can also prescribe cortisone injections. When under treatment, take a lot of rest and avoid unnecessary actions to help heal fast.
8. Other Causes
Other causes of sternum pain are injured ribs, breast and bone cancer, excess exercising, overstraining the chest portion muscles and osteomyelitis. If the pain you experience is accompanied by the formation of mass in the area, then there is a possibility that you are suffering from a severe condition known as chondrosarcoma.
Warning: It is very important that you check your symptoms carefully for further diagnosis or treatment. It is also advised that you seek medical advice from your doctor because the causes of sternum pain that have been listed here may not be comprehensive, and only your doctor has the capability of knowing the underlying cause thereby provide appropriate professional help.
When to See a Doctor
Seek immediate medical help if the severe pain you are experiencing is accompanied by difficulty in breathing and arm or jaw pain. The chest pain could be a sign that you are suffering from a heart attack. Also, consult your doctor if you have frequent heartburn, difficulty swallowing and persistent symptoms even after taking OTC medications.
If you find it hard to breath, have high fever, see infection signs like puss, redness & swelling, don't hesitate to call your doctor.