The sternum, also known as the chest bone or breastbone, is located in the chest’s central position below the collarbone. This flat bone joins both sides of the rib bones through the cartilage. It also protects many vital organs in the chest.
Sternum pain is usually felt in the chest area and is typically associated with various problems considered severe such as heart disease. However, the pain is generally caused by inflammation or an injury to the breastbone. This means that the pain is not related to a heart condition.
Sternum pain may be acute or chronic, depending on the individual and cause. Sometimes, people who suffer from the pain may feel clicking, inability to stretch, or cracking sensations at the sternum bone.
The causes of sternum pain are many and varied. Therefore, you should visit the physician to diagnose the cause correctly. This article will provide various causes of noncardiac chest pain related to sternum pain. In addition, you can find some helpful home remedies for sternum pain.
Symptoms of Breastbone (Sternum) Pain
Many various reasons could cause sternum pain. Here are some common symptoms: pain, clicking sounds of the bones, and inability to stretch.
If you experience severe pain when pressure is applied to the sternum, this may be caused by injury or inflammation. You may also hear the clicking of the sternum. In addition, the muscles and nerves may also cause breastbone pain.
There are times when a person’s lifestyle causes the symptoms mentioned above. For example, some people have overexercised. Some people may have done too much exercising, running, or lifting weights. Some people have chest pain after overeating. Sometimes, stress may also lead to sternum pain.
The Most Common Cause of Sternum Pain – Costochondritis
Costochondritis is known as the most common cause of sternum pain. This is the condition wherein the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone becomes inflamed. According to The Mayo Clinic, Costochondritis may appear because of different reasons. It may be caused by injury, straining, or infections.
There are some symptoms that you will experience if you have this condition:
- You may start to experience pain on the left side of the sternum.
- The pain in your chest may increase when you breathe deeply.
- You may feel a general pain in the rib cage.
What causes Costochondritis? You may suffer a chest injury after lifting weights or moving heavy furniture. It is also likely that you have done a physical activity that caused the area to become inflamed.
This condition is not severe and will go away on its own. But if you suspect that the cause of the pain may be something more serious, you should seek the help of your doctor. The doctor may advise you to use heat or ice to relieve the pain and get enough rest. You should also avoid unnecessary activities that could worsen the pain.
Digestive Conditions That Cause Sternum Pain
1. Heartburn or GERD
Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a common cause of sternum pain. There are a lot of people who experience heartburn, especially after eating. This is a condition wherein stomach acids may come up in the esophagus. You may also experience stomach pain after you have eaten.
Heartburn may cause a burning sensation behind the breast. While this is noncardiac chest pain, the pain may sometimes be too much to bear that people would feel the need to vomit food. Some people also experience nausea, cough, and a bitter taste in the mouth. Heartburn can also cause a sore throat and pressure in the chest.
GERD can also cause severe pains in the chest and sternum, another serious form of acid reflux. You may suffer from nausea, a sore throat, and a chronic cough. Sometimes, the pain from heartburn or GERD may feel like angina.
If you feel this pain, heartburn, or angina, you must check yourself immediately. Unexplained chest pain is harder to deal with.
Some home remedies can also help relieve pain caused by heartburn or GERD. First, you should try to avoid foods that can cause acid reflux. These foods include pepper, chocolate, tomatoes, citrus fruits, alcohol, fatty foods, and caffeinated drinks.
Then you should avoid lying down straight or exercising after a meal. Last, you can drink some baking soda to relieve heartburn or GERD. Just mix 1-2 tsp of baking soda with a glass of water and drink it before a meal. This will effectively help relieve breastbone pain.
2. Stomach Ulcers
Stomach ulcers are digestive problems that cause pain and discomfort around the breastbone. This pain may be felt just below the sternum and surrounding areas.
You will know if this is your condition if you would also experience other symptoms like nausea and bloating. Stomach ulcers may be caused by a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, or they may also be caused by some of the healthy choices you make.
According to a new study, ginger can help treat a stomach ulcer fast. Ginger can prevent the growth of Helicobacter pylori. This bacteria is the common cause of some ulcers. Just chop up some fresh ginger and boil it in water for 10-15 minutes. Drink it 2-3 times a day to effectively treat ulcers fast.
Respiratory Conditions That Cause Breastbone Pain(Sternum Pain)
Respiratory conditions can cause problems with your lungs, trachea, and other parts of your respiratory system.
This occurs when the bronchial tubes responsible for bringing air into your lungs become inflamed. You may become more prone to this condition when you suffer from a cold or flu.
When you breathe in and out, you will feel your sternum is in pain. The pain may last a short time, but some people develop a chronic version of this disease because of infections.
There are some symptoms of bronchitis that you have to be familiar with, such as the following:
- Wet cough that will require you to spit out mucus
- Having difficulty breathing
- Pain in your chest area
Remember that you are more prone to suffer from this condition when you have had colds and flu for a long time.
People suffering from acute pneumonia usually feel like they are about to die because they can barely breathe. Pneumonia occurs because of a bacteria or a virus. You need to look at some of the symptoms so that you can have yourself checked immediately. Some symptoms include the following:
- High fever
- Difficulty in breathing
- A persistent cough
You must immediately visit the doctor to get the appropriate medication if you suffer from these symptoms. You will also be asked to rest.
This is a condition that affects the lungs. The pleura is the tissue that you can find within your chest cavity. There are times when fluids will fill it up, or it can also become inflamed.
When something is wrong with the pleura, sternum pain is bound to occur. You will know if this is the condition that you are suffering from if you experience the following:
- The pain increases when you cough or when you sneeze.
- You may be struggling to get air.
- A cough sounds abnormal compared to the usual cough that you have.
- You may also get a fever.
Remember that after all the symptoms, it is a fever that is the rarest that you will experience when you have pleurisy.
Skeletal and Muscular Conditions That Cause Sternum Pain
If you have conditions affecting your skeletal system or your muscles, you may experience sternum pain.
1. Collarbone Trauma
The clavicle is connected to the sternum, so if the clavicle is injured, it will cause pain in the sternum area. Common clavicle injuries include dislocations and fractures. The cause is a car accident, sports injury, infection, or arthritis.
Clavicle trauma can cause swelling and tenderness around the collarbone. Other symptoms include bruising, swelling in the upper chest, and abnormal or sagging shoulders. When you try to move your arm upwards, clicking, grinding, and severe pain will occur.
A hernia is when an organ is moved from its usual place because of a particular movement. Those suffering from this condition typically experience severe pain depending on the area’s location that is not in its proper place.
The most common type of hernia is called a hiatal hernia. This condition wherein the stomach goes up and locates itself near your chest cavity.
If you feel that this is the condition that you are suffering from, you have to know some of the most common symptoms:
- Having trouble with swallowing
- Feeling full even if you have not eaten a lot of food
- Throwing up blood
- Dark-colored stools
If you have just fractured your sternum, you can already expect that this will cause a great deal of pain for you. You may find it hard to move your upper body because this is connected to many movements you do with your upper body all the time.
The most common reason you will get a sternum fracture is hitting your chest area with a blunt, solid object. You may get this fracture when falling on the floor or hitting the wall with your chest. Another possibility is when your seat belt almost cuts into your skin because of breaking too hard.
You will know if this is the condition that you are suffering from when you notice that your sternum area starts to become inflamed. There may also be a bruise that will begin to form near the sternum area.
Arthritis is another common cause of pain around your breastbone. Psoriatic arthritis can inflame the cartilage that joins the sternum. There are some home remedies that you can use to relieve the inflammation. According to the journal Surgical Neurology, taking 1200 mg per day of fish oil(Omega-3) can help reduce arthritic pain effectively.
5. Sternoclavicular Joint Injury
The sternoclavicular joint is the main joint of the upper body, which connects the clavicle to the top of the sternum. Injury to this joint can cause mild pain or swelling in the upper chest area. Other symptoms include bruising of the joints, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, or fullness around the neck.
You hear pops or clicks in the joint area when you move your shoulders. In severe cases, the joints become stiff, making it difficult to move the shoulders or even unable to move. SC common injuries usually result from a direct blow， blunt force trauma, or falling to the shoulder area.
How to treat a subclavian joint injury? In most cases, SC joint injuries do not require surgery. You can relieve pain by applying ice and taking painkillers. In some severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Other Conditions That May Cause Sternum Pain
You may think that some of the conditions mentioned above are the only ones that can cause sternum pain, but there are still different ones that can cause pain and discomfort:
1. Panic Attack
There are times when you will get a panic attack when you are about to go through a situation you are not too comfortable in. There is still some time when you think of something that will happen, even if not likely to happen soon; you can also experience panic.
Some people suffer from panic because of frustration. Those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder may also suffer from panic attacks. There are other symptoms that you may experience with this condition:
- Feeling Dizzy
- Chest Pain
- Having trouble breathing
- Having trouble swallowing
According to the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, about one-quarter of people with sternum pain have panic disorder. You should try to relax your mind and muscles. Massage is a tested method to help relieve panic attacks. This will help relieve pain in the breast bone.
2. Heart Attack
While it is unlikely that a heart attack brings about pain in your sternum, there is still a possibility for this. If you are over 40, this is more likely, but if you are under 40 and take good care of your health, the chances you will experience this are less likely. Some symptoms that you may be having a heart attack are the following:
- Pain that is felt on the left side of your chest area
- The discomfort of some parts of your upper body
- Feeling dizzy
If you are experiencing two or more of the symptoms mentioned above, you must get to the hospital immediately.
Some conditions mentioned above can be remedied by making some lifestyle changes. The choices that you make will show through your body’s condition. Remember these things:
- Do not overexert yourself. If you cannot do it, stop.
- Take rests in between doing some exercises.
- Try to eat healthier food so that you can also boost your immune system. A boosted immune system will make you less prone to colds and flu.
- Try some home remedies to help cure minor conditions, not escalate, and turn them into major ones.
- The food that you eat will affect your overall health.
You may not know that stress can also factor in breastbone pain. It may not be the direct cause, but it can worsen the pain. Sometimes, this pain may be mistaken for a heart attack.
The pain caused by stress may be cardiac or noncardiac. You should see your doctor if the pain persists for a long time.
You can also try some natural home remedies to cope with stress. Lavender essential oil is one of the best essential oils for anxiety. It can help reduce blood pressure and heart rate; this will help you relax.
Exercise can also improve your mood and make you feel better. Also, it can help you lose weight. This can help you relieve stress and enjoy a better quality of life. Eating some fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber can also help improve your general well-being and reduce stress fast.
How to Remove Sternum Pain With Home Remedies
Sternum pain may take a long time to heal. During this period, it is advisable to take a lot of rest and avoid any heavy exercise. Some home remedies can also help speed up the healing process; here are the best home remedies to relieve sternum pain.
1. Cold Compresses
Cold compresses are one of the best ways to reduce sternum swelling. Just prepare a few ice cubes or frozen peas, wrap them in a small rag or towel, and compress the area for 5-10 minutes; you can do this 2-3 times a day.
Do not put ice cubes on the skin, as this can damage the skin.
2. Bromelain supplements and vitamins
Fresh pineapple has been shown to reduce swelling and pain in the sternum. It also provides vitamin C and K supplements. These vitamins have been shown to reduce the healing time of bruises considerably.
3. Low-impact exercises
You can do low-impact exercises, such as cycling and swimming, to help reduce muscle stiffness. You’d better talk to your doctor before participating in these activities to avoid aggravating your condition.
- Take a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
- Avoid lifting heavy objects and repetitive movements that focus on the sternum area.
- Avoid smoking. This will reduce healing time.
When to See Your Doctor
You have learned all the possible causes of sternum Pain (Breastbone Pain). How will you know if you should see your doctor when all of the symptoms seem to be the same? Some signs may signify more serious problems, such as the following:
- Having trouble breathing or Dizziness
- Pain that is felt from your chest going toward your upper body
- Chest pain wherein you cannot pinpoint its leading cause
- Sweating, even if there is no reason for you to sweat
If your sternum pain worsens and doesn’t improve for a long time, see your doctor as soon as possible.