Sternum Pain: What Causes It and How to Treat It

The pain that is felt just under the breast bone is known as substernal pain.

Woman trying to feel her chest

The rate at which people experience pain around the chest region has increased. Many people immediately assume that pain in the chest is indicative of a heart attack. And that is not the case. There are many other causes of pain in the chest region. Such as sternum pain. This has to do more with pain just below the breast bone. So if this perfectly fits the description of the pain you’ve been having then it’s most likely sternum pain. But what exactly is sternum pain all about? Well, you’ll find out as we go on.

There are chances that the sternum but don’t know where it’s located. The sternum is actually also known as the breast bone. It’s the one that’s right in front of the chest. And it’s job is to connect the ribs to the cartilage. The sternum is actually considered to be part of the rib cage. The rib cage is made up of bones that help protect vital organs in the chest. Anyway, sternum pain is known to have a lot of causes. And we’ll be taking a look at that today.

Is Pain Just Below Breast Bone a Cause For Concern?

There are chances that the sternum but don’t know where it’s located. The sternum is actually also known as the breast bone. It’s the one that’s right in front of the chest. And it’s job is to connect the ribs to the cartilage. The sternum is actually considered to be part of the rib cage. The rib cage is made up of bones that help protect vital organs in the chest. Anyway, sternum pain is known to have a lot of causes. And we’ll be taking a look at that today.

Is Pain Just Below Breast Bone a Cause For Concern?

The sternum as you already know connects the two sides of the rib cage. And it’s located right in front of the chest. This makes it quite close to many organs in the chest and even the gut. So sternum pain might actually have nothing to do with the sternum. It could be as a result of the surrounding organs.

When people experience that pain just below the breast bone, their first guess is usually a heart attack. But in many of these cases, it’s actually not a problem with the heart. This is especially true if you are below 40 years of age and if you don’t have a serious health condition.

This pain is known to be caused more by conditions associated with your bones and muscles. It also has to do with your digestive system. As we go on you would find out the exact causes of this condition.

Causes of Sternum Pain

The pain that is felt just under the breast bone is known as substernal pain. And there are many causes of this pain. Let’s take a look at these causes one after the other.

Costochondritis

This is actually known to be the most common cause of this pain. This is a condition wherein the cartilage that’s located between the sternum and the ribs are inflamed. There are times that this condition is caused by osteoarthritis. But it is also known to happen for no reason.

This condition comes with symptoms like a sharp pain in the sternum, discomfort in ribs. The pain actually tends to get worse when you cough or take a deep breath.

Costochondritis is usually not that serious. But if the symptoms persist and worsen over time you should go consult a doctor about it.
Sternoclavicular joint injury: Right here is another cause of sternum pain. The sternoclavicular joint is a joint between the top of the sternum and the clavicle. The clavicle is also known as the collarbone. When there’s injury in this joint the sternum experiences pain.

If the sternum pain is as a result of this injury, there are certain things you would experience. Such as: 

  • Swelling and mild pain around the upper chest portion 
  • Clicking around the sternoclavicular joint 
  • Pain when moving the shoulders

Hernia

This might not actually be a very obvious cause of sternum pain. But hiatal hernia can actually cause substernal pain. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach is longer in its normal position. Instead, the stomach moves all the way to the top into the chest region.

It would present with some symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn 
  • Trouble swallowing 
  • Frequent burping 
  • Vomiting blood 
  • Feeling full

If you have substernal pain and symptoms listed above, then it’s advisable to go see a doctor as soon as possible. So that you can be treated properly.

Sternum fracture

Just like fractures that happen in other parts of the body, a fracture in the sternum can be quite painful. A fracture to the sternum could be as a result of direct trauma to the sternum. It could be as a result of an injury from sports or a car accident.

If you think you have a fracture in your sternum, then you have to see a doctor as soon as possible. And that’s because the lungs and heart can actually be affected.

Usually, it shows other symptoms such as: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain when you inhale or cough 
  • Swelling 

Acid reflux

This occurs when the acid in the stomach wears off the lining of the esophagus. This is actually seen in people with gastroesophageal reflux. It usually causes sternum pain and general discomfort in the chest. And it is actually accompanied by a burning sensation in the chest.

The pain can be a result of inflammation in the esophagus. So if you have GERD it’s important that you have a chat with your doctor. This is so that possible solutions can be provided. Once this is dealt with then there would be no further damage to that area.

How to Treat It 

The next step you would take as to treatment is actually dependent on the cause of sternum pain. And also the severity of the pain.

For some people over the counter medications would be okay for treatment. While for some there might be a need for a change in diet. If the cause is quite serious then you might need long-term treatment. And for some cases, surgery might be the only way out.

The most important thing in treating sternum pain is diagnosing the cause. Once the doctor has an idea of what is causing the pain the treatment becomes a lot easier. Your doctor would be able to come up with a good treatment plan to deal with the sternum pain.

So whenever you feel pain in the chest region stop speculating. Instead, go see a doctor and confirm the reason why you’re having pain just below the breast bone. 

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