What Does A Bruised Sternum Feel Like? Causes And Recovery Time

Sternum is located in the middle of chest. Also called breast bone, this flat bone is comprised of three parts; the manubrium, body and the ziphoid process. Sternum is a strong bone and it protects the vital organs of chest such as the heart, lungs and blood vessels.

The sternum can be bruised due to a forceful impact and the frequent cause is car accident or with a direct blow while playing contact sports. Bruised sternum normally requires 4 to 6 weeks to heal. During this period patient often feels uncomfortable due to pain.

He may not be able to breathe easily due to pain.

Bruised sternum needs time to heal, but with medications and home treatment healing process can be shortened.

Symptoms Of A Bruised Sternum

Most cases of bruised sternum have history of trauma on chest and the symptoms develop soon after the incident. Here are the prominent symptoms of bruised sternum.

  • Bruises on chest and area around the breastbone.
  • Breastbone is tender to touch.
  • Pain in the middle of chest over the sterna area. Pain will depend on the severity of injury or an impact over the breastbone. Pain while coughing, laughing, and holding the hands high or with any movement of upper body area like bending forwards, backwards or even sideways.
  • Swelling in front of chest and on the sternum.
  • Chest pain lasts for weeks.
  • Breathing is shallow due to pain.

Often these patients avoid deep breathing as it hurts and therefore they take short breaths. In such case it is necessary to consult your physician to rule out if there is associated fracture of sternum.

Causes Of Bruised Sternum

As mentioned earlier, bruised sternum results due to a forceful impact on the chest.

Most often a bruised sternum occurs due to car accident, especially when the person drives without wearing a seat belt. It may also result while playing certain sports, especially contact sports without wearing protective chest gear.

Sternum consists of three bones, the manubrium and body and the ziphoid process. Manubrium is the top portion and the first two ribs are attached to it. The central part is called body of sternum where the third to eight ribs are attached. The ziphoid process is the last part. All the three parts can be affected.

Bruised sternum is generally a problem of adults; however children can also suffer from it. In children bruised sternum can occur due to hacking whooping cough. However, with advent of vaccination this problem has reduced to great extent. Cough due to excessive smoking can produce pain in chest and sternum in adults.

Bruised Sternum Treatment And Recovery Time

It takes almost 1 to 4 weeks for healing of bruised sternum. The time may vary from person to person and the severity of traumatic injury. During this period the patient feels extreme discomfort because of pain on slightest chest movement, especially while breathing or coughing or while bending forwards or sideways. Patient is unable to extend his hands upwards.

With bruised sternum patient may find difficulty in doing certain daily task such as lifting weight, extending hand over the head. However, with anti inflammatory medications it is possible to reduce swelling and pain. Together with medications, home remedies prove beneficial in quick healing.

Ice fomentation in the beginning helps to alleviate pain as well as reduce swelling. After two to three days warm fomentation for few minutes may be beneficial in relieving pain. Eat natural anti inflammatory foods such as pineapple. Pineapple contains enzymes which are known to reduce inflammation. The enzyme present in pineapple is called bromelain.

1 comment


  1. Pat

    Thanks for the good information. I was in the passenger seat with my seat belt fastened when our car hit the Ranger SUV in front of us. The impact was mainly on the passenger side. Driver was uninjured except for sore muscles and minor bruises. My injuries were sever from the seat belt. ET rooms should have your information printed out to give any patient suffering a bruised sternum. I didn’t get half of this information. Accident happened on November 7th and it is still extremely painful to move, cough, laugh, cry, but mostly sneezing.

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