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Bruised Sternum: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Updated on February 13, 2017
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.

Bruised Sternum: Pain, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Remedies and Prevention
Bruised Sternum: Pain, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Remedies and Prevention | Source

What Is a Bruised Sternum?

A person suffering from a bruised sternum cannot easily dismiss its symptoms. There is discomfort and difficulty in breathing. Pressure to the chest causes greater pain. Simple daily tasks are hard to accomplish.

How does this condition occur in the first place? How would a person know if he/she already has it? How can it be treated? Is it serious? Does a person have to immediately go to a doctor? What is a sternum anyway?

We will explore these questions as we look at this malady and its painful symptoms.

Understanding the Sternum
What is the sternum? Where can it be found in the body? To better understand the severity of bruising in the sternum, it is important to know some background information about its location and purpose in the human body.

The sternum is a sword-like, flat bone found in the middle of the chest. It is commonly called the breastbone.It is connected to the first seven ribs starting from the clavicle, commonly called the collarbone. Together with the ribs, it forms the entirety of the rib cage.

The sternum, with its sword-like feature, is made up of three parts: the manubrium makes up the handle, the gladiolus makes up the body or blade, and the xiphoid (sometimes it’s spelled with a "z") process makes up the tip of the sword. Each part indicates the number of ribs that are attached to the margins of the sternum through costal cartilages.

The manubriumis the top part and is usually called the handle. It is attached to the first two topmost ribs and the collarbone. The gladiolus comprises the body. It is attached to the third to seventh ribs. Finally, the xiphoid Process is the bottom most part. It is the smallest part of the sternum and is indirectly attached to the eighth to tenth ribs.

Fact: Because the sternum looks a lot like a sword, names of its parts were derived from ancient words that are related to swords. Manubrium (from Latin word manus) means "the handle," Gladiolus (from Latin word gladius) means "the sword," and Xiphoid (from Greek word xiphos) means "sword-shaped."

Though considerably small compared to major bones in the skeletal system, the sternum serves a function that is crucial for the protection of vital organs in the chest cavity. As part of the rib cage, it protects the lungs, major blood vessels, and the heart. It acts as a shield against injury from trauma to these parts. It also protects parts of the stomach, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and liver.

Because of this, it’s important to be concerned when pain is felt in the chest area as it may be due to a bruised breastbone. If left untreated, it can lead to weakening of this part and may increase the chance of trauma to vital organs that are necessary for the normal functioning of the body.

To properly determine bruising of the sternum, it’s important to know what causes it.

Causes: Why Bruising of the Sternum Occurs

The sternum cannot be easily bruised considering its location in the body. Accidents that can cause bruising of the breastbone are rare. This means that there has to be a deliberate move to hurt this part of the body to cause its bruising. This move has such a forceful impact that its effect can be felt beyond the muscles that covers and protects the rib cage, thus causing a bruise. Because of this, a bruised sternum is also sometimes called a sternum contusion.

Here are the most common sources of forceful impacts that can cause a sternum contusion. These activities or incidences can increase the risk of bruising the sternum.

Car Accident: The number one cause of a sternum contusion is car accidents. It may lead to a number of damages to the body and bruising of the sternum is one of them.

A bruise in the sternum occurs because a driver has failed to wear a seatbelt. During impact, the driver can slam into the steering wheel and hit the chest area with such force that it causes bruising in the breastbone. In severe cases, the sternum or the rib cage can be fractured or damaged and the vital organs within as well.

Sometimes, even wearing a seat belt causes a sternum contusion. In fact, according to the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock, the introduction of shoulder restraints and seat belt laws has increased the incidence of sternum injuries. What happens is the impact during a car accident can move a passenger's body forward with a violent force. The placement of the seat belt across the chest however, prevents the body from moving forward freely. This causes bruising to the sternum.

On the contrary, it would be acceptable to get some bruising this way, rather than receive more life-threatening injuries. So, always wear a seatbelt.

On the other hand, if there is pain or lingering discomfort in the chest area after a car accident, it is best to have it checked by a doctor for proper diagnosis. Proper medical care also prevents serious complications.

Sports Injury: Another major cause of sternum contusion is through injuries sustained from contact sports.

American football, hockey, rugby, and boxing are perfect examples of contact sports that can cause bruising in the sternum. These games' violent nature creates forceful impacts that target the chest area.

In rugby and American football, the "tackle" is both an offensive and defensive move that intends to stop an opponent from doing something to gain points. It requires a player to slam onto an opposing player. Repeated slam to the chest or even a single, but forceful one can cause the sternum to bruise.

In hockey, "body checking"is used the same way and also causes bruising of the breastbone. Sports moves such as the tackle and body check are indirect reasons why bruising occurs in the sternum.

In boxing and mixed martial arts, there is a deliberate move to hit the chest area to cause unbalance against an opponent. Unfortunately, the force of a punch doesn't only cause sternum contusion, but sometimes, even death. The impact of a punch, if strong enough, can cause the heart to stop, leading to death.

For this reason, it's important to wear proper gear when playing these games. Rugby, in particular however, requires no protective gear during play and is most commonly the cause of bruised breastbone in sports.

Whatever the sport, if there is chest pain or discomfort after a game or contact with another player, it is always good to have a doctor check it out.

Cough: Because children are not allowed to drive vehicles and play contact sports yet, a bruised sternum is typically experienced by adults. However, illnesses such as hacking and whooping coughs result in forceful coughing that causes a sternum contusion.

Coughing is a way for the human body to get rid of foreign materials, such as phlegm and mucus stuck in the airway passages. It is also one of the body's reactions to irritants and allergens. Because of this, a child suffering from this symptom will repeatedly cough and at times, forcefully coughing out something that isn't actually there.

Coughing seems trivial and innocent that it's surprising it can cause something in the body to bruise. How can this happen?

Unlike a productive cough that expels phlegm from the nose or sinuses, and mucus (sputum) from the lungs, hacking cough is a form of nonproductive cough. It isa dry and persistent cough that occurs after a bout of cold or after being exposed to irritants such as smoke or dust, and allergens such as pollens and dust mites. It produces no mucus or phlegm.

A child suffering from a hacking cough will repeatedly cough out what feels like an irritating amount of phlegm or mucus, but to no avail. This stimulates the rib cage to expand more than it should, causing the sternum to bruise.

The same thing happens with a child suffering from a whooping cough. Like a hacking cough, it causes a child to cough forcefully and repeatedly, but for a longer duration. Also called Pertussis, this symptom can last for two to three months.

Both the hacking and whooping coughs can cause serious injury to a child's sternum. It is thus important to have a child vaccinated against whooping cough or be on the lookout for causes of hacking cough such as Bronchospasm, viral illnesses, allergies, dust and fumes, asthma, and inhaled or swallowed objects.

In adults, hacking cough can also cause the sternum to bruise. Causes of hacking cough in adults include specific medicines (Capoten, Prinivil,Vasotec, Zestril, and Zestoretic), and excessive smoking.

Most coughs don't require any treatment. They clear up within three weeks. However, it's a good idea to see a doctor for more persistent coughs, so they can determine the cause and provide the proper treatment or recommend the right kind of medical care.

Other Causes of a Bruised Sternum
There are also other, minor causes of a sternum contusion. These include an improperly administered CPR, bench press injury, and forceful hitting.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique applied to stimulate the circulation of blood and oxygen in the body. It is used to revive a person who doesn't have a pulse. An improper way of applying CPR can lead to complications that instead of saving a life, can put it in more danger.

A CPR is applied with forceful, repeated compressions of the chests that are usually 1 inch in depth. These chest compressions involve strong pressure and stress to the ribcage, often causing injury to the ribs and sternum.

Another cause of a sternum contusion is injury sustained from repeated bench press. It is a weightlifting and strength training exercise that involves a person lying down a bench, but with both feet on the floor. A weight or barbell is held with both arms and are lifted to "press" the chest. Its purpose is to build the muscles in the chest and arms.

According to LiveStrong, improper execution of bench press repetitions can lead to a bruised breastbone. This occurs when each press is done too quickly or the bar is bounced off the chest.

One other minor cause of a sternum contusion is forceful hitting of the chest. This can happen deliberately, with malice and bad intention. Typically, fights and brawls involve this type of move. However, accidents can also happen such as unintentionally bumping or slamming onto something.

A person suffering from chest pain should have it checked by a doctor to determine its source and cause. If a sternum contusionhas been identified as the culprit, the first course of action would be to treat it.

However, what constitutes a sternum contusion? How do doctors diagnose it? What are its symptoms? How would a person know if it's already a bruising of the sternum that is occurring?

Symptoms of a Bruised Breastbone

Bruising of the sternum can be mild to severe.It depends on the severity of the injury sustained by an individual. No matter how severe a sternum contusion is, it has distinctive traits that can be recognized to help determine if a person truly has bruising of the sternum or otherwise.

Here are the most common symptoms of a bruised sternum.

1. Pain: Pain in the sternum is typically associated with cracking or clicking sensations in the breastbone. Bruising of the sternum is often associated with cardiac-related chest pains. However, it is not a clear indication that it is related to a cardiovascular disease.

Some of the main causes of sternum pain include fracture, inflammation, heartburn, trauma to the collarbone, Pleurisy (inflammation of the linings of the lungs), Costochondritis (inflammation of the rib cage cartilage), and Sternoclavicular joint (shoulder blade) injury.

Pain is the first indication of a sternum contusion. Its intensity depends on the severity of the injury. A mild contusion can cause pain on the injured area. It also brings pain to stretch the arms or lift even the lightest objects. It can also cause difficulty in breathing. A mild contusion is usually tolerable.

However, a severe contusion can bring pain even with the slightest movement. Breathing becomes shallow, coughing or sneezing cause intense pain, and even laughing is hard to do. Body movements such as bending sideways or backwards are out of the question. It can't be done.

At times, a person might dismiss the pain, prolonging discomfort and suffering. This can happen with mild contusion and should not be encouraged.

2. Tenderness: The breastbone becomes tender to the touch. It also becomes painful with a slight touch.

3. Swelling: Upon touch as well, the sternum feels inflamed. It also appears to be swelling. In some cases, the sternum area looks like it has a lump because of the swelling.

4. Bruising: Bruising is also a clear indication of a sternum contusion. Not only does it occur in the affected area, but bruising also appears on the chest and the areas around it.

If these symptoms are present in a person that has been in a vehicular accident or has participated in contact sports, it would be acceptable to assume that there is bruising of the sternum.

However, it would be best to consult a doctor to avoid serious complications or prevent further damage. A chest x-ray or CT scan might be used to create a diagnosis. These diagnostic tools can also determine if there is damage to nearby organs or other bodily systems, and if there is a serious injury to the sternum such as a fracture.

In children, if these symptoms occur after prolonged coughing, it would be good to have it checked by a pediatrician as soon as possible.

Immediate medical care will be administered to a person or child suffering from a sternum contusion. There are also home remedies that can be applied to hasten the healing process.

Understanding What a Bruised Sternum Is and How to Properly Treat It
Understanding What a Bruised Sternum Is and How to Properly Treat It | Source

Consult Your Doctor

Before taking any medications, please consult your doctor for safety precautions. There may cause serious health complications if the medication is not compatible or suitable for your body.

Treatments for a Bruised Sternum

Treatment for a sternum contusion can be divided into three categories. The application of both these treatment methods is crucial in the overall healing process. Using only one can prolong the recovery time and cause complications.

Medical Treatments for Sternum Contusion
Medical treatment for bruising of the breastbone primarily involves pain medications. Because contusion causes intense pain and discomfort, doctors would recommend pain killers such as NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory inflammation drugs). This kind of drugs can prevent inflammation and relieve pain.

Generic examples of NSAIDs include acetaminophen (APAP), aspirin, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen.

  1. Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is a generic name for over-the-counter (OTC) brands such as Tylenol, Robitussin, Nyquil, Panadol, Sinutab, etc.
  2. Aspirin: Aspirin on the other hand is available in many brands. However, there should be caution before taking this drug. People taking other NSAIDs such as Advil, Voltaren, Motrin, Toradol, Mobic, Feldene, Aleve, Relafen, Orudis, Lodine, and Indocin, should not be taking aspirins. This drug is also not allowed for pregnant or breastfeeding women, people suffering from intestinal bleeding or any other forms of internal bleeding, and cancer patients.
  3. Mefenamic acid: Mefenamic acid meanwhile, can be taken in the form of capsules under the brand name Ponstel. Prolonged used however, is not allowed. It causes an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack. People suffering from diabetes, hypertension (or high blood pressure), high cholesterol, or any of the various cardiovascular diseases, should be informing their doctor before being prescribed with this drug. At all cost, caution is advised before taking this drug.
  4. Ibuprofen: Ibuprofen on the other hand, is the generic name for brands such as Advil and Motrin. It is the most common drug prescribed to individuals suffering from a bruised breastbone.

These medicines should be taken with caution. Although they can be bought OTC, it's important to ask the recommendation of a doctor to ensure that no complications shall arise.

Doctors would most likely recommend ample rest time and home treatments along with medications. Cold compress and a healthy diet are the typically advised by doctors upon consultation.

Home Treatments for Sternum Contusion

Home treatments play a huge role in the recovery process of sternum bruising. They allow for faster healing, pain relief, and lessening of discomfort. Here are the most commonly used home remedies to treat a bruised sternum.

1. Cold compress or ice packs: Cold compress or ice packs can reduce swelling and bruising of the sternum. It also relieves pain.

A ready-made cold compress (can be bought in drug stores and are stored in the freezer at home) can be used or a simple ice pack (a plastic bag filled with ice or ice wrapped in small cloth or towel) can be used. This is applied on the chest area, especially on the sternum. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin.

A cold compress is to be applied for 20 to 30 minutes (on and off) on the sternum 3-4 times a day for the first 24 to 72 hours. This should be done until swelling lessens, which may take a few days, or until the patient is comfortable not using a cold compress anymore.

2. Healthy diet: A healthy diet promotes healthy bones, which shortens the recovery time. Certain fruits and vegetables have nutrients that promote faster healing. They should always be included in the diet of a person suffering from a sternum contusion.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) can significantly reduce inflammation and help wounds heal. The body needs it to process neurotransmitters, L-carnitine, and collagen. Collagen is essentially found in connective tissues, which allows wounds to heal at a faster rate. Major sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K is also good for bruising of the sternum. It helps the blood to clot to prevent excessive bleeding and thus, help wounds heal quickly. It is also good for maintaining healthy bones.It has two components – vitamin K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 can be found in leafy green vegetables, while vitamin K2 is sourced from eggs, cheese, and meats.

Bromelain: Bromelain on the other hand, is an enzyme that digests and processes protein. It has healing powers because of its ability to reduce inflammation in the body and muscle soreness, and slow blood clotting. It is commonly found in the stems and fruit of the pineapple plant.

While there are healthy foods that can help heal bruising, there are some that can worsen it. Foods high in processed sugar stimulates inflammation, which can hinder proper healing. Caffeine, alcohol and foods high in salt meanwhile, can contribute to bone loss, which can weaken the sternum and worsen its injury. Make sure to avoid these kinds of foods.

3. Supplements: Supplements can also help people with sternum contusion to heal quickly. In fact, some of the nutrients mentioned above are more effective in concentrated, supplement form.

Supplements can benefit people who are not keen on eating fruits and vegetables. However, it is still best to source vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from fresh fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, and healthy drinks.

Please find the daily dosage reference chart below.

4. Low-impact exercises and activities: Low-impact, non-weight bearing exercises are recommended for people suffering from sternum contusion. It is a way to reduce stiffness of muscles and restore range of motion. It is easy on the joints and reduces risk of further injury.

However, such exercises are only to be done once initial symptoms subside. There should be no more pain and bruising when doing low-impact exercises and activities to avoid worsening an individual's condition. To know what's best, consult a doctor who can recommend the right kind of exercises.

Here are some low-impact exercises and activities for a bruised sternum.

After a few days or weeks of rest, walking and hiking would be the best exercise to get into. It's a stress-free way of getting the heart rate up. Swimming and biking are also good activities to be involved with. It strengthens the shoulder muscles, which affects the collarbone and the rib cage.

Tai chi, water aerobics, step aerobics, ballroom dancing, rollerblading, and yoga are some of exercises that require no gym equipment. For individuals who prefer to work out in the gym, the elliptical, rowing machine, and stairmaster are suitable for a sternum contusion.

Strength training is also recommended. Good examples of strengthening exercises are lunges, squats, and supermen.

Other suitable low-impact activities for a sternum contusion include kayaking, cross country skiing, golf, snowshoeing, Pilates, rock climbing, and total body resistance exercises.

Daily Dosage Reference

Nutrients and Minerals
Recommended Daily Intake
Vitamins C and K, and Bromelain
As already mentioned above, these nutrients help heal injuries quickly. Copper is also a mineral that can help wounds heal fast.
Vitamin C
The recommended daily dosage for vitamin C is 75 mg(milligrams) for women and 90 mg for men. People who smoke should add 35 mg more to their daily intake.
Vitamin K
Vitamin K should be taken according to a person's body weight. The recommended dosage is 0.001 milligram per kilogram of body weight. In general though, dosage is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) per day.
Bromelain
Bromelain on the other hand, should be taken twice daily between meals. Its dosage should be between 500 to 2,000 mg.
Copper
900 mcg per day. Over dosage can lead to acute poisoning.
Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D
Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D are important for the development and health of bones in the body. These minerals keep bones strong, too. Recommended daily intake for these nutrients and minerals is as follows:
Calcium
1,000 mg for both men and women
Magnesium
310-320 mg for women and 400-420 mg for men
Vitamin D
600 IU (international units) per day. However, to prevent bone fractures, 200-1,370 IU is recommended.
Boron
Boron is a trace mineral that is helpful in keeping bones healthy. It helps metabolize other minerals that are needed for bone development such as copper, magnesium, and calcium. It also activates vitamin D3, which is needed to help the body absorb calcium.
Boron daily dosage
To use it as a supplement for healing bruises of the bones, it is recommended to take 3 to 5 mg per day. Overdose of Boron can lead to dermatitis (inflammation and itching of the skin), weakness, vomiting, and nausea.

Reminder

Before taking any medications or supplements, please consult your doctor for safety precautions. There may cause serious health complications if the compound is not compatible or suitable for your body.

Alternative Treatments for Sternum Contusion

Alternative treatments can be applied to bruising of the sternum as well. This kind of treatment can be used for people allergic to medicines or who don't want any form of conventional medicine or therapy.

1. Micro-current therapy: Micro-current therapy is used to repair damaged tissues and reduce pain. During a therapy session, the electrical fields in the bruised breastbone are stimulated with a smallelectrical current.Why is this done?

Micro current therapy experts believe that all tissues in the body have their own electrical frequency. Whenever an injury occurs or a disease takes over a healthy body, these frequencies are disrupted.

This therapy aims to restore the natural flow of currents in the body. It corrects the disrupted fields of electrical currents.

During a micro current therapysession,the currents used to stimulate frequencies in the body are extremely low. This means that a person undergoing this therapy will not feel the currents at all. At the same time, these currents also prevent swelling and increasing pain, which are part of the body's defense mechanism against injuries.

2. Homeopathy for bruised sternum: Another alternative remedy for a bruised breastbone is homeopathy. It is a form of alternative medicine first used in Germany from the late 18th century. Today, homeopathic remedies involve the use of concentrated natural substances to cure illnesses, injuries, and wounds. Experts in this field believe that a small dose of something that makes a man ill can also cure and cause healing.

For a sternum contusion, substances such as arnica montana and aconite are used.

Arnica montana: Arnica montana is taken from a yellow plant called mountain tobacco or leopard's bane. It has the ability to provide pain relief, ease bruising, and reduce swelling. Usually, it is used as first remedy for sports injury or shock from a vehicular accident.

  • Risks and side effects: It is not safe for pregnant and lactating mothers to consume or apply on the skin. Overdose can cause digestive problems, tachycardia, and high blood pressure. It should be avoided before going for surgery. Patients who are allergic to the asteraceae family should avoid it. Don’t apply on broken skin or damaged skin, as it can absorb too much.

Aconite: Aconite on the other hand, is taken from a purple plant that is popularly known as wolf's bane or monk's hood. It is one of the oldest plants used for homeopathy. It treats anxiety, fear, and restlessness associated with pain.

  • Risks and side effects: This is highly dangerous supplement, so be very cautious when applying it. It is not safe for consumption. Since it contains poison, it causes many side effects like vomiting, nausea, paralysis, heart complications, breathing problems, and death. Pregnant and lactating mothers should avoid at any cost since it can lead to death.

Other homeopathic remedies for pain and healing use ledum from wild rosemary, bellisfrom English daisy, symphytum from comfrey, calendula from marigold, toxicodendron from poison ivy, and rhus from sumac.

However, administering homeopathic medicine should be left to experts because the wrong dosage can prove fatal.

3. Herbal medicines: While taking herbal medicines is almost the same as homeopathy, the two are different with regards to preparation, indication, and safety profiles. Plus, herbal medicine is not administered to cure an illness that it can also cause. This means that taking herbal medicines is safer, without the need for prescriptions. What's more, poisonous substances are not encouraged.

Herbal medicines that can be used to treat a sternum contusion include bilberry, lysine, and frankincense.

Bilberry: Bilberry is used to relieve chest pains. It is taken as a tea. The preparation includes 150 ml (milliliters) of water poured over 1-2 teaspoons (approximately 5-10 grams) of dried leaf and left for 5-10 minutes before drinking.

Its ripe berries can also be eaten as a medicine. The dosage is 20-60 grams per day.

  • Risks and side effects: It is likely to be safe when taken in medicinal amounts up to certain period of time but overdoses can lead to complications. Patients with diabetes, as well as anyone preparing for surgery, should avoid taking this supplement, as it can decrease the blood sugar level drastically. Pregnant and lactating mothers should avoid it as there is no specific information regarding these medicines for them.

Lysine: Lysine is an amino acid that is available as an herbal supplement. It helps in promoting good health for the bones. Foods rich in lysine include alfalfa sprouts, amaranth seeds and leaves, wheatgrass, beans, yogurt, milk, meat, cheese, and mint.

  • Risks and side effects: Patients with kidney disorders and osteoporosis should avoid it. There is no specific information regarding its intake for pregnant and lactating women so unless prescribed avoid it. Possible side effects are stomach pain and diarrhea. Patients who are intolerant to lysinuric protein should avoid it.

Frankincense: Frankincense is an essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy. It can also be used to reduce anxiety, stress, inflammation, and pain. Its oil is derived from the plant called boswellia sacara tree. The oil can be added in bath soak or applied on the skin especially on the injured area such as a bruised sternum.

  • Risks and side effects: It is safe in most adults. It can cause irritation when applied topically. It can also cause vomiting and nausea when consumed. No information is given regarding pregnant and lactating mothers, so avoid it to be safe.

In general, herbal medicines such as the ones mentioned here are safe for use without prescription. However, it would be best to consult a doctor first about alternative herbal medicines.

4. Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes to adjust to the demands of a bruised breastbone is highly recommended. Although it would be inconvenient to disrupt a daily routine, lifestyle changes can help lessen pain and anxiety brought about by a sternum contusion.

For the duration of the healing process, it would be best to avoid lifting heavy objects, bending the body, participating in contact sports, and movements that can worsen the symptoms of the bruising.

There are many ways on how a sternum contusion can be treated. It depends on the patient which type of treatment to take. To choose the right type of care, consider what is most comfortable to the person who is suffering from pain. At best, a combination of medical and home or alternative treatment can hasten a person's recovery time.

Recovery and Prevention

Although home treatment can shorten the healing process for a bruised breastbone, it still takes time to fully recover from it. Recovery time varies from person to person though, especially considering the intensity of the trauma sustained.

It takes a minimum of 1 week to heal bruises.For the pain to go away, it would take another 2 to 4 weeks (a fractured sternum can take up to 3 months to heal). The Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock estimates the average recovery time for a fractured sternum is 10 weeks, indicating that the average recovery time for a sternum contusion is half this time.

During this time meanwhile, a person should have plenty of rest. A person should avoid heavy activities and protect the bruised part of the chest.

Here are some ways on how a sternum contusion can be protected from further injury and pain:

  1. Hold a pillow against the sternum and gently press it towards the chest during coughing, laughing, and sneezing.
  2. Avoid carrying or lifting objects. If it's unavoidable, the weight limit should be not more than 2.5 kg (kilograms) or 5 lbs. (pounds) for one hand. If both hands are used, the limit is 5 kg or 10 lbs.
  3. Keep important items nearby to avoid reaching out or up. Avoid twisting the arms because this can affect the sternum.
  4. When combing hair or shaving the beard and mustache, lower the head and bend the elbows.
  5. To get up from the bed, roll on the side first. Then hook a foot around a leg of the bed, or hang a leg over the side of the bed. Finally, push up from the bed and sit up using an elbow.
  6. To stand from a chair, wrap the arms around the sides of the body to avoid reaching up or out. Use the leg muscles to move the body up to stand. Use the arm muscles to restore balance.
  7. If another person is helping an injured individual to stand or sit, allow them to provide support at the hips and back only. Never allow them to grab by the armpit or pull an injured person by the arms because this will cause or worsen pain.
  8. Avoid driving for at least 4 weeks.
  9. Daily household chores can be resumed after 4 to 6 weeks. However, during this time, frequent breaks should be taken between chores.
  10. Slow down when going up or down the stairs.
  11. Avoid pushing or pulling objects. If it's unavoidable, use the body to push or pull. Otherwise, ask for help from someone.

A sternum contusion can also be prevented if the right precautions are applied. To prevent a sternum contusion, it is always important to:

  1. Wear protective gear when playing sports, whether contact or non-contact.
  2. Don't lift objects that are beyond capacity. Use lifting equipment to carry heavy loads such as a wheelbarrow, trolley, or cart.
  3. Wear a seat belt when driving or traveling in a vehicle.

These precautionary measures can prevent a sternum contusion from occurring. There are also exercises that can strengthen the sternum, which can eventually prevent it from bruising. This is part of the rehabilitation process.

Strengthening the Sternum

Strengthening the sternum involves making the chest and shoulder muscles strong, too. This rehabilitation process includes strengthening exercises that can restore the range of motion of the chest muscles, eliminate muscle stiffness due to prolonged rest, re-instate proper function of the respiratory system, and keep chest muscles and bones strong.

1. Breathing exercise: This exercise will stimulate the proper function of the lungs and the muscles surrounding it once again. It can also eliminate stiffness due to shallow breathing.

To start, stand or sit upright. Keep the hands and arms to the side. Breathe in slowly and hold breath for 2 to 3 seconds and slowly exhale. Repeat this for 8 to ten times to complete 1 set.

Make sure to take slow, deep breaths.Avoid rapid, deep breaths because it may cause slight pain. Also, make sure that the diaphragm inflates well enough. This means that it has gathered enough air to stretch the lungs.

This exercise can be done for 10 minutes a day.

2. Stretching exercise for the chest muscles: This exercise will stretch chest muscles to wake them up from a deep slumber. Like the breathing exercise, this can also eliminate stiffness.

To start, stand or sit up comfortably. Keep the arms and hands to the side. Begin with one arm by raising it in 90 degrees to the front of the body. Hold it in this position for 2-3 seconds. Then, return it to the side of the body. Move it again, but this time move the arm backwards. Stretch it as far as possible without causing pain. Hold it in this position for 30 seconds. Repeat this with the other arm.

A set of this exercise should be completed with at least 3 repetitions for each arm. If possible, to increase the intensity, complete 5 repetitions in 1 set.

This exercise can be done for 10 to 15 minutes per day.

3. Wall pushups: This exercise strengthens the chest and shoulder muscles.

To start, stand upright facing a blank, sturdy wall. Place the hands, palms first, on the wall. They should be parallel to the shoulders. Perform pushups against the wall. Don't overdo it. Start with small movements first. Repeat 3 sets with 10 to 12 pushups each.

To increase the intensity of this exercise, do half-pushups on the floor. It is done with the knees touching the floor. Use the same number of sets and repetitions. If the shoulders are strong enough, do full pushups, but slowly.

This exercise can also be done for 10 to 15 minutes per day.

4. Cardiovascular exercises: Cardiovascular (or cardio) exercises strengthen the sternal joints and the rib cage because it increases the heart rate. Some examples of cardio exercises perfect for bruised sternum rehab include:

Squats: Stand with the feet apart and the arms to the side. Press the body downwards by bending the knees and raising the arms forward. Keep the back straight and keep the knees from extending over the toes. Lower the body and stretch the arms for a few seconds, then stand back up again. Repeat this whole process for 10 minutes. Walk or jog on the spot after the whole set to allow the knees to recover.

Squat thrust: A squat thrust is also called a burpee. It is done by starting with a squat, but with the palms facing down and hands touching the ground. Then the feet are kicked back to form a pushup position. Then, slowly return to a squat position with the hands still touching the ground. Finally, jump up with the arms in the air overhead and the heels elevated from the floor. Complete 2 sets with 15 to 24 repetitions each.

Star jumps: Start with a squat position, knees bent and arms on the side. Jump from this position raising the legs and the arms to the side. Don't raise the arms overhead. Do this for 15 to 24 times to complete 1 set. This exercise should be completed in 2 sets.

Tap backs: To start, step the right leg back and with both arms raised forward parallel to the shoulder. Always look forward and keep the shoulders and hips facing forward, too. Avoid extending the knees over the toes when stepping back.

Repeat the whole process with the other leg, starting with the arms on the side. Repeat the whole process with continuous rhythmic movement. Complete 2 sets with 15 to 24 repetitions of tap backs each.

To intensify this exercise, jump when switching the legs, but land softly to avoid stress on the knees. Make sure to keep the heels from landing full on the floor.

To allow the knees to recover from this exercise, jog or walk on the spot for 15 to 45 seconds after completing the sets.

Rocket jumps: To start, stand upright with feet apart and the arms to the side. Then jump forward by bending the knees halfway and extending the arms overhead. Make sure to stretch the arms as far as possible. Land softly on both feet and start again in the standing position. This exercise can also be completed with 2 sets. Each set should be 15 to 24 repetitions each.

Cardio exercises can be done longer at 10 to 20 minutes per day.Remember however, before starting with any kind of exercises, don't forget to begin with a warm-up routine.

Smoking Risk

During the healing and rehabilitation period, it is crucial to avoid smoking. It can worsen the symptoms and can even prolong the period of recovery. Another adverse effect it has is weakening of the bones.

Complications of a Sternum Contusion

A sternum contusion, when left untreated, can lead to infection. This can affect the vital organs nearby.

Conclusion
The sternum, though seemingly insignificant, plays an important role in the human body. It protects vital organs including the lungs and the heart. Having a bruised breastbone can significantly increase the chances of trauma to vital organs. As such, it is crucial to protect the sternum as well.

With the information provided here, anyone can now prevent having a bruised sternum or identify it when it occurs. When it does, the proper treatment can now be administered to prevent further injury or damage.

However, keep in mind that a doctor's advice and care is still the best option to go when treating a sternum contusion.

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Resources

  1. "Sternal fractures and their management". U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  2. "How to protect your chest bone (sternum) after thoracic surgery". UHN Toronto General. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  3. "Types of Chest Injuries". WebMD. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  4. "Dislocated Ribs". HealDove. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  5. "Sharp Upper Back Pain Between Shoulder Blades". HealDove. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  6. "Diagnosing cardiac contusion". PMC, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health Search database. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.
  7. "Sternal Fracture Clinical Presentation". Medscape. Retrieved on Jan. 6, 2017.

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