The sternum is just part of the front of the chest and abdomen that takes care and protects the internal, and very important, organs. The sternum works in conjunction with your ribs to ensure organs are not injured or harmed in any way, but when the area itself has been injured, can become very tender and painful, especially to touch.
A harsh blow to the sternum can cause some pretty impressive bruising, and more traumatic injuries can take up to six weeks to fully heal. There are some things you can do at home to alleviate the pain and make life a little more comfortable for yourself, but you should be thankful - at least your sternum took the blow and not your internal organs!
Bruised Sternum - Symptoms
If you have had a blow to the sternum that is causing you discomfort, especially severe discomfort, you should seek medical attention. Even if you think you are “okay”, you may have injured something more serious. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as they say.
If the symptoms persist (or get worse) there is a chance you may have experienced a fracture to the sternum, and this will require more urgent medical care.
The symptoms you will experience when suffering with a bruised sternum are:
- Pain when you breathe
- Pain when moving the torso
- Pain when coughing and laughing
- A general and painful tenderness to the chest
- Bruising along the area of the breastbone
What Can Cause a Bruised Sternum?
There are many things that can cause you to have a bruised sternum, although the most common reasons include sports injuries, vehicle injuries (accidents), and a harsh and hacking cough.
In the case of a car crash, the sudden pull on the seatbelt could leave you with a bruised seatbelt if you were travelling at speed. High impact sports can cause bashing into the torso, and anything that requires bashing often results in bruising - a bruised sternum is just one of those injuries. When you have a cough that persists for a long time, or you have a very bad cough that is causing you to violently move, the repeated action could put pressure on your sternum, and could eventually bruise it also.
How to Treat a Bruised Sternum
The good news is that there are many things you can do in the comfort of your own home to make life with a bruised sternum a much more comfortable one. It can be a very painful condition to deal with, and when moving is painful, everything is painful. Even lifting a drink to your mouth could be almost too much to bear.
If the pain is severe or persists for a long time, always seek medical help. Sometimes you can’t treat it all at home with a few home remedies.
Take it Easy
Where possible, take life easy. The more movement you do and pressure you put on your sternum, the more it will hurt. Repetitive movements are not a great idea if you want to heal quickly and effectively, and you should definitely leave all the heavy lifting to someone else. You should take care of yourself - make use of those sick days you keep piling up, and stay at home in bed for a few days. The rest really will do you good - this is an injury you’ll want to take it slow for.
Make or buy yourself some ice cubes, and grab a handful of them to wrap up in a tea towel. You don’t want to put ice directly on your skin - this can cause burns and quite a lot of discomfort, but you can wrap them up in something - a towel, flannel, pillowcase, etc. It’s just water - you can wash whatever you used afterwards.
For around ten to fifteen minutes, apply the wrapped-up ice to the affected area, and rub it around. Give your own painful bit a good massage, as firm as you can manage with the tenderness. The ice will act to numb the pain for a while, and can work really well alongside painkillers, and any massage is going to encourage blood flow to the area. This can also help with the pain.
Eating a good diet, and taking vitamin supplements where necessary, will ensure your body is in the best condition. When this is the case, your body is well equipped to handle the injuries you inflict on it - it will heal much quicker. A healthy and balanced diet is essential for a healthy body, and that means leaving the fast food alone. You should also avoid alcohol - this will increase your healing time and may not work well with any pain relief you might be taking.
Exercise is still important, even when you are suffering at the hands of a bruised sternum, and where possibly you should attempt to do some light exercise. this might be walking to begin with, increasing the length of your walks each time. When you feel comfortable, more low-impact exercise is a smart choice - swimming will give you a great way of working out without putting pressure on the area. This will help you to work out without experiencing too much pain.
We have mentioned pain relief, and although it is commendable to want to NOT take tablets when you are sick, a bruised sternum really is a very painful condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen) can help with the swelling as well as dealing with the pain side of things. If you experience bruising, acetaminophen is another medication you could look towards for relief.