A bruised sternum is the result of having suffered a traumatic injury or having been exposed to an outside impact that causes injury to the sternum.
Costal cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum, which keeps the ribs intact and securely in place. The breast bone serves as a protector of the lungs and the heart from potential traumatic impact, and without it there would be a gaping hole in the center of the chest. Without the breast bone as a protective shield, any impact here would prove to be instantly fatal. A bruised sternum is the result of an injury to the breast bone that shields the lungs and the heart.
So what types of injuries can cause a bruised sternum? Often, bruised sternums occur during a car accident where the driver neglects to wear their seat belt. They also often occur during violent sports when protective chest gear has not been worn. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pain that is suffered afterwards can be quite excruciating. Coughing, particularly violent and forceful hacking, can cause bruising of the sternum as well. The breast plate is not the only form of protection provided for the organs in the chest. Ribs play a significant role in protecting the internal organs from damage. The ribs encircle the outward chest area and connect to the back.
Since it’s been established as to what can cause a bruised sternum, we will now discuss the signs and symptoms that occur after a physical blow has been received to the chest — which may indicate traumatic injury to the sternum.
• Pain during movement
• Pain while breathing
• Sharp pain while laughing and/or coughing
• Chronic chest pain for several weeks
People afflicted with a bruised sternum will usually take small, shallow breaths to lessen the pain. However, these symptoms should not be ignored as they indicate a serious injury that can turn into a much bigger problem. Shallow breathing and infections can occur when left untreated. It is important to make an appointment with a doctor right away to make sure the breast plate hasn’t been fractured or some other serious problem hasn’t occured.
Treatment for Bruised Sternum
It can take up to 4 to 6 weeks for a bruised sternum to heal completely if the injury has not been too traumatic. Difficulty in the movement and twisting of the chest area will be experienced during this time, particularly if one needs to take deep breaths. It is vital that the patient breathes easily despite the pain, because holding it in can stunt the healing process. If the problems do not go away for longer than 4 to 6 weeks, be sure to follow up with a physician to make sure complications haven’t arisen. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAID) or opiates can be given to help with the inflammation and the pain. The NSAIDs are prescribed to the patient depending on the severity of the injury. However, these aren’t the only medications to be prescribed — others include: Fenoprofen, flurbiprofen, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen.