Top 8 Common Causes Of Sternum Pain

There are many reasons as to why people may suffer from sternum pain. The sternum, also known as the chest bone or breastbone, is located in the chest’s central position just below the collarbone. This flat bone joins both sides of the rib bones through the cartilage. Often mistaken for cardiac or angina related chest pain, the sternum pain may radiate from the chest bone rather than the circulatory system.

The sternum pain may either be acute or chronic depending on an individual and cause. Sometimes, people who suffer from the pain may feel clicking or cracking sensations at the sternum bone. The causes of sternum pain are many and varied. Therefore, one should visit the physician to correctly diagnose the cause.

Top 8 Common Causes Of Sternum Pain


Heart Attack

Almost everyone may suffer from heartburn, which can cause the lower sternum to experience radiating pain. Heartburn symptoms can include a burning sensation that may occur during the night or after a meal. The pain may get worse when one bends over or lays down. The shooting sternum pain can be mistaken for a heart attack. However when the pain is restricted to chest and does not spread to the arms, back or take on a pressure or squeezing sensation, then you don’t have to worry too much.

2.Sternum fractures

Sternum fractures

Automobile-related sternum fractures can be caused by the chest forcefully striking the steering wheel. The seatbelt or dashboard may also be culprits. Athletes who exercise regularly and forcefully can cause injury to the sternum if they twist their upper torso. Falls during a sport or exercise may also cause fracture to the breastbone. People with weakened bone due to another disease process may also suffer sternum fractures. A fractured sternum can cause pain especially with deep breathing or movement. Other symptoms of a fractured sternum can include swelling, bruising and tenderness in the affected area. There may also be an observable chest deformity. Sternum fractures may take several weeks to heal depending on the severity.

3.Collarbone trauma

Collarbone trauma

People who have suffered trauma to the collarbone may experience sternum pain. The collarbone is situated between the scapula and sternum. A clavicle fracture can be caused by a fall onto a shoulder, a fall onto an outstretched upper extremity or direct blow to the clavicle. This kind of trauma is common and most cases happens at birth caused by an accident or a fall. Persons at risk of collarbone trauma include those who have a low intake of Vitamin D and calcium. Some symptoms include pain on front part of upper chest, referred pain, swelling, possible nausea or sharp pain when movement is made.

4.Respiratory ailments

Respiratory ailments

Some respiratory ailments that may cause the pain include pleurisy. Pleurisy can be caused by various chest and lung conditions and inflammation of inner walls of the chest. Pleurisy manifests when the two tissue layers become inflamed or irritated. The rubbing of the two layers when breathing can cause pain although there may be little pain between breaths. The pleurisy-related pain is made worse by breathing deeply, sneezing or coughing. Other symptoms of the respiratory ailment include appetite loss, chills, dry cough, shortness of breath or chest pains with breathing. Other respiratory disorders that may cause sternum pain may include asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis.

5.Joint injury

Joint Pain

The sternoclavicular (SC) helps support the shoulder by linking the bones of the arms and shoulder to the vertical skeleton. When the joint suffers an injury, it may lead to sternum pain. The injury consists of ligament trauma to the joint connecting the collarbone and the breastbone. If a ligament is subjected to acute pain, it may tear or stretch completely or partially. The severity of the pain may depend on the injury. However, if the joints are dislocated either on the anterior or posterior, it may result to serious sternum pain.



This is a common condition that causes sternum pain. It is characterized by inflammation of the junction where the cartilage and upper ribs join. Over-stressing the ligaments and muscles can bruise the area, causing discomfort. Pinched nerves and sore muscles may also cause chest inflammation. Though the benign condition is often self-limited, it can be a recurring condition with little or no signs of onset. Reproducible tenderness and soreness when the joints and sternum are pressed and aggravated chest pain are some of the symptoms. The pain may affect multiple ribs and may get worse each time an individual takes a deep breath, coughs or engages in physical activity. The pain on the ribs may increase with every breath or movement. This pain can mimic pain caused by a heart attack and may also ease when there is no movement.

7.Panic attack

Panic attack

People who suffer from panic attack may suffer from sternum pain. The pain can be brought on by apprehension or stress. Knowing the triggers of a panic attack and differentiating the symptoms from those of a heart attack may help determine if one needs help or not. Sternum pain may stay long after a panic attack.


After a surgical procedure near the chest, an individual may suffer from sternum pain. The pain may linger for several years after the surgery if the healing process does not go smoothly. Over time, the pain may become less pronounced. However, certain conditions such as stressful activity may bring back the pain.

Stretching the upper body or applying pressure to the chest may make the sternum pain worse. People should see a doctor when the pain is severe and is accompanied by difficulty in breathing, jaw or arm pain. Individuals may also consult a doctor if suffering from persistent symptoms, difficulty in swallowing and frequent heartburn. The physician can advice on the best treatment plan that may help relieve the pain because the treatment of the pain may vary depending on the cause. Some treatment measures the doctor may recommend include medications for heartburn and anti-inflammatory medication.

Read:15 Easy Exercises and Stretches For Lower Back Pain Relief

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