Sternum pain can easily be mistaken for chest pains, which can be cause for alarm. However, sternum pain will radiate from your chest bone, rather than the circulatory system. Sternum pain can manifest itself as a sharp pain near the breastbone, but may commonly be more severe on the upper left side. Applying pressure to the chest or stretch the upper body may make the pain worse. Different conditions can also cause pain in different areas of the sternum. You may also notice cracking or clicking sounds when the pain appears.
Causes of Sternum Pain
Heartburn can cause the lower sternum to suffer from radiating pain. This is more common when you become pregnant. Heartburn can become a radiating, shooting pain throughout the chest, which can easily be mistaken for a heart attack. If the pain is limited to the chest area and does not spread to the back, arms or begin to take on a squeezing or pressure sensation, then there is likely no cause for alarm.
Costochondritis is one of the most common causes of sternum pain. Costochondritis is caused by a minor injury to the sternum or the rib cage. Overstressing the muscles or ligaments in the chest can lead to this condition, or you may have bruised the area, causing discomfort. If you press the area where your ribs meet your sternum and it feels sore or there is a specific area that is tender then you are likely suffering from costochondritis. If the pain is severe or you were in an accident you may be suffering from a sternum fracture or a rib injury.
Surgery. People who have been through surgery near the chest may experience sternum pain after their procedure. If the healing process does not go smoothly, this pain can linger for several years after the initial procedure. This pain may become less pronounced over time, though certain conditions such as changes in weather or stressful activity can cause it to return.
Joint damage. Persistent pain near the sternum area or other joints in the chest can be caused by joint damage. If pain is also persistent in the shoulders, collar bone or ribs then you may be dealing with a condition such as arthritis that is causing damage to your joints. Performing activities such as heavy lifting may make this pain worse. Damage to the pectoral muscles can also cause the area around the sternum which may be extenuated during heavy breathing.
Inflammation in the chest area can cause pain near the sternum. Tietze syndrome, or inflammation in the rib cage, can cause a sharp pain in the chest which can become more severe with movement or breathing. Excessive physical exercise can also cause the chest to become inflamed, causing sternum pain. In more severe cases inflammation may be caused by pleurisy, an infection that may lead to serious conditions like tuberculosis, pneumonia, or lung and bone cancers.
Panic attack. Those who suffer from anxiety may suffer from sternum pain on the onset of a panic attack. This pain can feel very similar to a heart attack, but will be brought on by stress or apprehension. It is important to be aware of any triggers that might lead to an anxiety attack as well as how to differentiate these symptoms from those of a cardiac disorder so you can determine whether or not you need help.
How to Treat Sternum Pain
For digestive issues. If your discomfort is caused by a digestive issue then you will need to take medication to help relieve your discomfort. Medications for heartburn or acid reflux disease are available over the counter. Be sure to read the instructions before taking a dose to make sure that the medication will not conflict with any other conditions you may have.
For anxiety attack. When suffering from an anxiety attack, you will need to do what you can to calm yourself. People are typically advised to focus on slowing their breathing pattern to help bring their heart rate back to a normal point. Breathing into a paper bag may be help you focus on your breathing to determine if you are still in a manic state.
For inflammation and costochondritis. Taking an anti-inflammatory can help reduce swelling in the chest that may be putting pressure on the sternum. Icing the chest can also help bring down swelling that can cause chest pain. Those suffering from costochondritis may also find relief from applying a warm compress to the area that will allow the tissue o relax. Be careful not to overdo your treatment as this can disrupt your circulation. If your chest is inflamed due to injury and it is causing pain near your sternum, get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous activities until your symptoms relax.
For sternum fracture. If you are experiencing fainting, fever, breathing problems, vomiting up blood, abdominal, back or chest pain, or reduced palpitations in addition to your sternum pain then you may be suffering from a sternum fracture. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid your injury becoming worse or causing damage to the tissue around the ribcage. Your doctor may perform an MRI, CT-scan or X-ray to determine whether you are suffering from a fracture. X-rays can also help diagnose inflammation caused by conditions such as pneumonia.
For cardiac events. If at any time you feel as though you are suffering from a cardiac event it is imperative that you seek medical attention immediately. Contact emergency medical services and get advice regarding anything you should do before they can arrive to help. You may be asked to take an aspirin to help slow the effects of a heart attack until you can get the help you need.