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Pain In Sternal Area: How to Spot and Differentiate


Sternum pain refers to discomfort and pain in the chest area including the sternum (breastbone) and nearby cartilage.

Pain in sternal area differs from that of heart attack in the fact that a sharp pain starts almost suddenly as opposed to that in case of a heart attack. [1]

- Though accompanied with a sharp pain, people under the age of 40 don’t have much to worry about sternum pain.
- It may occur frequently in people with an already existing condition such as heart problems.
- One must see a doctor at the earliest if he/she experiences breathing problems and tightness in the chest.
- Pain in sternum is self diagnosable due to the discomfort and pain it causes.

The common triggers of sternum pain and substernal pain (pain behind or below the breastbone) are costochondritis, fractures (clavicular or sternum fracture), fibromyalgia, open heart surgery, hernias, joint injury and acid reflux. Usually, the condition arises in the nearby muscles and bones rather than the sternum itself. Pain can be acute or chronic.


Symptoms of sternum pain vary with the reasons and causes, such as:
- Costochondritis: Pain in sternum area, discomfort, pain while taking a deep breath or during coughing.
- Hernia: Heartburn, Difficulty in swallowing, Blood in vomit
- Sternum Fracture: Swelling of the area over the breastbone, difficulty in breathing
- Acid Reflux: Discomfort, burning feeling in chest

Other symptoms of sternum pain includes:
- Stiffness in shoulder joints
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swelling in upper chest
Consult a doctor immediately if symptoms worsen with time.

Diagnosis involves physical examination and going for imaging tests like X-ray and MRI, ultrasound.


Self Care:
- Using ice packs or hot compresses (in case of injuries).
- Adequate rest.

Treatment for sternum pain differ as per the underlying reasons. Options include:
- Over-the-counter medication like antacids (in case of acid reflux).
- Severe cases require immediate medical attention and hospitalization.

Specialists: At mfine, we help you understand your medical conditions and chalk out an appropriate plan for your treatment.

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