What is a Bruised Sternum?

Sternum is a bone in our body, which along with ribs, acts as a shield to protect the anterior region of our chest. A severe blow, trauma or injury to the front of the chest can cause bruising of the sternum. The healing time of the bruised sternum depends on the severity of the injury. In case of a bruised sternum resulting from a mild injury, it usually takes around 4-6 weeks to achieve complete healing. Treatment and home remedies help in relieving the discomfort caused by a bruised sternum.

What is a Bruised Sternum

Signs & Symptoms of Bruised Sternum

The symptoms of a bruised sternum should be treated immediately before they become more serious. If the symptoms are very severe, then it may be an indication of a more serious problem, such as a fracture of the sternum. The common symptoms a person experiences from a bruised sternum are:

  • Pain upon movement.
  • Bruising is seen in the breastbone region.
  • There is swelling and tenderness to touch.
  • There is persistent pain in the chest, which can last for some weeks.
  • Pain is felt upon breathing.
  • Sharp pain is felt when the patient laughs or coughs.

Symptoms of Bruised Sternum

Causes of Bruised Sternum

Trauma to the breastbone region or the chest is the common cause of a bruised sternum. Activities which can cause or increase the risk of bruised sternum are:

  • Automobile accidents can easily result in a bruised sternum. The seatbelt which is worn when driving exerts force onto the sternum during an accident and causes a bruised sternum.
  • Hacking coughs can be quite violent and they put a lot of force on the sternum. If not treated properly, persistent forceful coughing may result in a bruised sternum.
  • Sports, which are violent in nature increases the risk of bruising to the sternum. A bruised sternum can commonly occur when a person plays sports without using any protective chest gear.

Home Remedies for Bruised Sternum

  • Patient should try to breathe calmly so as to avoid further aggravating or damage to the sternum and to promote healing. Symptoms should be treated promptly. If the bruising on the sternum is left untreated then it can lead to infection.
  • Excessive movement should be avoided during the healing phase of a bruised sternum. Repetitive activities which put stress on the sternum and aggravate the symptoms should be avoided. This can help in boosting the healing process of bruised sternum. Activities which put strain on the sternum, such as heavy lifting should also be avoided. Smokers should avoid or quit smoking for a faster heal time of bruised sternum, as the nicotine present in the tobacco causes compression of the blood vessels and hinders the blood flow to the injury site, which in turn restricts amount of nutrients which the bruised tissue receives.
  • Following a balanced and healthy diet is important for speeding the recovery process of bruise sternum. The rainbow diet is recommended in such cases, which comprises of various fruits and vegetables everyday to promote the healing process. Food items which have healing properties include guava, cherries, cabbage, carrots and spinach.
  • Pineapple has a digestive enzyme, which helps in reducing the bruising and swelling. Eating fresh pineapple will help with that. Bromelain supplements also have a similar effect on the body and are commonly prescribed to help with pain, bone injuries and swelling. Vitamin C supplements help in enhancing the immune system and reducing the healing time. Supplements and ointments which have vitamin K also help with quickening the healing process of the bruises.
  • Low impact exercises can be started once the symptoms of bruised sternum have started to resolve. These exercises help in restoring the patient's range of motion. Non-weight bearing exercises, such as biking or swimming also help in reducing stiffness. However, a doctor's go ahead is needed before starting any exercise after an injury and should be stopped if they are aggravating the symptoms or the injury.

Treatment for Bruised Sternum

  • Medications including NSAIDs and painkillers, such as acetaminophen, naproxen and ibuprofen will help in reducing the intensity of the symptoms such as pain, swelling and discomfort associated with bruised sternum.
  • Micro-current therapy is a procedure where the bruised region of the body, in this case, the bruised sternum, is exposed to an electric current which helps in repairing the tissue and decreasing the pain. Micro-current therapy helps in correcting the body's electrical fields that were impaired during the injury. This will help in promoting the healing of a bruised sternum. The current is applied in very low doses, so the patient should not be able to feel it. This helps in preventing the body's own defense mechanisms from increasing the swelling and pain in the injured area.
  • Ice massage can be done by rubbing the bruised region with ice cubes for about 5 to 10 minutes about thrice a day. Icing helps in decreasing the swelling present on and around the sternum. The ice or ice cubes should be wrapped in a towel or a cloth and should not applied directly on to the skin as the excessive cold can result in damage to the skin.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: August 5, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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