Sternum is a flat bone in the middle of the thorax, which is the region between the chest and the organs, including the heart and the lungs. It provides support for the shoulder bones and the ribs. The ribs are connected to it through costal cartilage, which keeps them safe and in place. This bone provides vital protection for the internal organs. Without it, there would be a gap in the middle of the chest and even the smallest trauma to the area would be very dangerous for the lungs and the heart. In fact, without the sternum as protection, any blow to the chest could be fatal.
As for the injuries to the sternum, they include fractures and a problem called bruised sternum.
Causes and symptoms of bruised sternum
The sternum can become bruised due to injuries such as car accidents, where the driver did not wear the seat belt, or in sports injuries, especially in contact sports. Athletes who do sports like boxing, kick-boxing, rugby, football, martial sports and such should always wear protective gear as the blows to the chest are very common in those sports and bruised sternum is a common sport injury.
Bruised sternum can also occur due to very forceful and violent coughing.
The symptoms of bruised sternum include, of course, bruising and pain, which can range from moderate to severe, especially during movement. The pain becomes particularly sharp when laughing or coughing, and even during rest the area is very tender. There may also be some swelling, and the pain may be present while breathing. Because of the pain when breathing, many people take short and shallow breaths, which is not recommended because it may lead to chronic shallow breathing and infections.
Treatment for bruised sternum
The recovery time for bruised sternum usually lasts from four to six weeks. During this period, it is recommended to breathe normally and to use treatment designed to alleviate the symptoms. It is also recommended to refrain from strenuous activity, especially from the kind of activity that aggravates the pain.
The pain can be managed with analgesics, which can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opiates. Doctors usually recommend ibuprofen, ketoprofen, naproxen, flurbiprofen and fenoprofen.
Even though the treatment for bruised sternum focuses on alleviating the pain, it is highly recommended to see a doctor in any case of sternum injury, because the chest is a delicate region and there can be other damage to it apart from the bruised sternum.