Sore Sternum

Causes of a Sore Sternum


A sore sternum is not only painful and uncomfortable but can be rather scary as well. The sternum or the chest bone as it is sometimes called, is located in the center of the chest and connects to the ribs. Together with the rib bones, the sternum creates the skeletal protection for the heart and lungs. It is attached to the ribcage by seven cartilage connection points and is surrounded by muscles. An infection or injury to any of these components can cause a painful and sore sternum to develop. Because the sternum is located in the center of the chest, problems involving the sternum often display pain similar to that of heart disorders. Anytime a patient experiences chest pain they should consult with their doctor to rule out heart ailments that may be dangerous or even fatal. By understanding some of the different causes for sternum pain, a patient will be able to determine if their problem is serious or not.


One of the most common causes of a sore sternum involves an injury to the chest cavity. Blunt force trauma can severely bruise or fracture the sternum. This is very common in sport injuries and car accidents. In fact about 90% of sternum fractures are the result of car accidents because of the location of the steering wheel. Injuring the sternum causes pain that gets worse with movement or touch and may create problems with breathing. These types of injuries may also be dangerous because of the close proximity to the heart. Sternum pain due to injury should be treated by a doctor immediately to prevent damaging the heart. Less serious injuries to the chest region can occur from exercise. Improperly stretching or weight lifting can pull or strain the muscles surround the sternum. While this injury is painful, it is rarely serious. Even extremely violent coughing fits can damage the muscles and bones that make up the ribcage, and will often leave the sternum feeling sore.


The seven cartilage connection points between the sternum and the rib bones are often the site of infections. A condition called Costochondritis occurs when these pieces of cartilage become inflamed. This creates sharp sternum pain that is very similar to the pain associated with a heart attack. The sternum may also feel tender to the touch. It is thought that about 10% of the population suffers from this condition, which may last for months. As painful as Costochondritis is, it is rarely a serious problem. Costochondritis is closely related to Fibromyalgia, or chronic and widespread pain in the body. Most people who suffer from Fibromyalgia also get Costochondritis symptoms. The cause of Fibromyalgia is unknown and treatments may have moderate success. Pleurisy is another condition that may cause pain the sternum region. This condition occurs when the lining inside of the lungs becomes inflamed. It also creates sore ribs and a tender sternum, especially when the patient breathes.


Many people who suffer from acid reflux disease also experience pain and tenderness of their sternums. The feeling mimics that of an injured sternum, but is caused by stomach acid burning the esophagus. Acid reflux disease can cause damage to the stomach and esophagus and should be treated.


Having the symptoms of a sore sternum can painful, uncomfortable and can affect every aspect of a person’s daily life. Severe injuries to the sternum should be treated and chest pain should be checked out to rule out heart conditions. Treating the other underlying causes of sternum pain such as acid reflux or Costochondritis should be performed in order to help alleviate pain of the sternum and make life comfortable again.