Sternum is the dagger shaped set of bones found in the chest region. It is also known as breast bone and it is well connected to rib bones through cartilages. This forms part of rib-cage circle that encloses many important blood vessels of the heart and major organs like heart and lungs. Any fracture or major bruise on the sternum can affect the normal functioning of these organs. 5 out of every 100 people can develop bruises or minor fracture of sternum due to injury or trauma to the chest.
Motor accidents are the major cause for sternum fracture and in most of the cases negligence of not wearing seat belts properly can cause damage to the sternum. Old age people and young children are prone to develop bruises of sternum. Any stressful operation involved in the job and sports related injury can also cause bruised sternum. People whose job involves working in raised construction sites are at risk of getting bruises and fracture of sternum. In rare cases certain medical conditions like osteoporosis can cause bruises on the sternum. Sternum contusion or sternum bruises can develop due to trauma occurring to the breastbone when the chest of the driving person crashes with that of steering column.
Bruised Sternum Symptoms :
You should be aware of the signs of bruises or fracture on the sternum to seek immediate medical attention. Moderate to severe pain on the breastbone which progresses as one breathes is the first symptom of bruised sternum. Bruised sternum can be the reason when you develop sharp piercing pain while coughing or laughing aloud. Any bruises on the breastbone can cause tenderness on the chest region accompanied with swelling. In some cases this condition can also cause bruises on the superficial skin layer.
Chest pain (without any apparent cause) that persists for weeks together can be due to bruised sternum. Any pain or discomfort developed on the chest region during movement indicates bruises on the sternum. Any bruises on the breastbone or sternum should never be neglected since it may cause complications like lung infections and scarring of heart tissue.
Bruised Sternum Causes :
- Injury :
Any injury or trauma to the breastbone can directly affect the sternum bones causing minor bruises or fracture.
- Accident :
Often automobile accident is the major cause for bruised sternum. People who are not wearing seatbelt are at high risk of getting more bruises on the sternum during sudden accidents. Sometimes the seatbelt can exert force to hold you in place causing bruises of sternum.
- Sports Injury :
Sports personalities can develop many types of sports injury and bruised sternum is one of the major injuries. Bruises of sternum are quite common while playing sports or events that does not mandate you to wear chest protective gear.
- Coughing :
Persistent coughing or forceful coughing can exert pressure on the chest cavity causing multiple bruises on the sternum. Whooping cough is one of its kinds that can cause bruised sternum.
Based on the symptoms, your doctor would check for swelling of skin in the chest area after completing the physical examination. He may order for X-ray of the chest and if needed you may be asked for imaging tests like CT or MRI scan. This would give accurate picture of the functioning and extent of any damage to heart and lungs.
Treatment For Bruised Sternum :
Bruised sternum takes more time for complete healing and the length of time varies with respect to the extent of damage done to the sternum. It might take anywhere from 6 to 24 weeks for healing of bruises. During such time, the person may feel discomfort while breathing and also during movement.
Most of the minor injuries developed on the sternum can heal with complete rest and other home remedies. But if you have sharp chest pain and tenderness over the chest region it is better to get it tested with your physician and take suitable treatment suggested by your doctor.
- Micro Current Therapy :
Controlled volumes of electric current are passed directly on the chest region. The patient will be lying flat on his back comfortably and will be exposed to minute quantities of current. This would repair the torn tissue or any other damage on the sternum thus facilitating healing. The patient will not have any pain or discomfort during this therapy since the current is given only in minimal doses. The electrical field of the body would be repaired during this approach so that the injury heals quickly.
- Drugs :
Based on the intensity of pain your doctor may recommend suitable painkiller medications like Ibuprofen or Advil or similar drugs. This would help in managing pain as well as swelling. Drugs that contain acetaminophen are effective in healing the bruises easily.
Home Remedies For Bruised Sternum :
Home remedies are suitable only for minor injury and bruises on the sternum. You are supposed to consult your doctor if the pain/discomfort on the chest lasts for more than a week or longer duration.
- Ice Massage :
Cold compress can do magic on any type of bruises or injury. You can wrap some ice cubes on a soft towel and apply it over the chest area. Check whether you are able to tolerate the pain or discomfort. You can give ice massage for 5-10 minutes and you can repeat this process many times. Ice therapy helps in reducing swelling and healing of bruises quickly.
- Avoid Stressful Activities :
Once you suspect of bruised sternum or any injury on the chest area you should restrain from any type of intense physical work. Excess of stress or abnormal movement can make the condition of the bruises worse than good. You can carry out your routine work as long as there are no symptoms like intense pain or discomfort on the chest region.
Do not attempt to lift heavy objects since it can exert high pressure on the heart. Avoid any type of stressful activities until the wound completely heals. Quit smoking and drinking since it may interfere with the healing process of the sternum.
- Take Nutritious Food :
Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat raw fruits instead of juice to get total benefit from the fruit.
- Restrict Fat Items :
Avoid taking fatty items and fried foods during the time of healing since it may block the blood vessel interrupting with the process of healing. Choose fruits that contain Vitamin C that are known to trigger the immune system thus helping in healing.
- Supplements :
Supplementary vitamin tablets can be taken daily. Vitamins can repair the torn tissues and repair the cells quickly. It is effective in controlling swelling and managing bruises.