The sternum, also known as the breastbone, is a flat bone located in the middle portion of the chest. Sternum pain may be caused by a variety of conditions, including inflammation, joint disorders, or recent surgery involving the chest cavity. Treatment options for pain in the sternum are varied and depend on the direct cause of the pain, although over-the-counter or prescription pain medications are frequently used.
Costochondritis is a medical condition that commonly leads to sternum pain. Costochondritis is a medical term used for the inflammation of the area in the chest where the cartilage joins with the rib cage. The exact cause of this medical condition is not completely understood, although it may be related to chest infections or repeated injuries to the chest area. Rest and the use of anti-inflammatory pain medications are often used to treat costochondritis.
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The sternoclavicular joint connects the sternum to the collarbone. When this joint is damaged, pain in the sternum may be the result. Accidental injury is the most common cause of this injury, and the pain generally occurs due to a dislocation of this joint. Pain medications and rest may help to ease the symptoms, but if the damage is severe, surgical intervention may become necessary.
Physical trauma, including fractures to the sternum or surrounding structures, are common reasons for sternum pain. Damage to the collarbone or the shoulder blade may cause pain to be felt in the sternum. Any of these bones are typically only fractured due to forceful trauma such as may occur in an automobile accident or an episode of intentional violence. Treatment for these fractures often requires surgery, especially if multiple fractures are present.
Patients who have recently had any type of heart surgery are prone to developing pain in the sternum because, during heart surgery, the chest cavity is typically forced open. The surrounding muscles and other structures may suffer bruising or slight damage as a result, causing pain and soreness that may last for several weeks or longer. Other medical conditions that may sometimes lead to sternum pain include overexercise, strained muscles, or injury to the ribs. Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer or bone cancer, may lead to pain in the area of the sternum. Although most cases of sternum pain can be medically treated relatively easily, it is important for the patient to obtain an accurate diagnosis so that the proper types of treatment can begin as soon as possible.