The ribs and the sternum are connected by costal cartilage that keeps the ribs in their place. Without a breast bone to protect your chest, there would be a gaping hole in your thoracic cavity; any impact to your chest would have a drastically dangerous effect on your lungs and heart without a breast bone. Serious injuries to your chest would be fatal nearly instantly if no breast bone were present. A bruised sternum affects the part of the breast bone that is closest to the lungs.
How does the sternum become bruised? This can occur after a car accident when the driver is not wearing a seat belt, or it can be a sports injury if the individual isn’t wearing protective chest gear. Depending on how severe the injury is, the pain from a bruised sternum can be very intense. Those who suffer from forceful and violent hacking coughs may also develop bruising of the sternum. In addition to the breast bone preventing injury to the chest, the ribs can lessen the impact to the chest, as the ribs protect the internal organs starting outside the chest area going toward the back of the body.
Now that you know how a bruised sternum can occur, let’s talk about the symptoms that occur when the chest is injured upon impact, which can include:
-Pain when moving
-Pain during coughing or laughing
-Pain while breathing
-Constant chest pain that lasts for weeks
Many people take in small breaths to ease sternum pain. However, these are serious symptoms that could result in serious health problems if not attended to promptly. For instance, your body could be more prone to infection or your breathing could become shallow. Consult a doctor immediately for treatment, and to determine if your breastbone pain is due to a sternum fracture or another health problem.
Bruised Sternum Treatment
A bruised sternum takes between 4 and 6 weeks to completely heal if your injury is not traumatic. During healing, you may have trouble moving or twisting your torso, especially when you have to take in deep breaths. Be sure to breathe easily and endure the temporary discomfort, since holding in your breath can slow the healing process. If the problem lasts longer than 6 weeks, it’s time to consult your physician once more. Opiates or NSAIDs are often prescribed to reduce swelling and pain. NSAIDs are given to certain patients depending on the severity of the sternum injury. Medications for the pain include ibuprofen, naproxen, fenoprofen, ketoprofen and flurbiprofen.