ZocdocAnswersWhy would one's sternum hurt?

Question

Why would one's sternum hurt?

I'm a 19-year-old guy, and it hurts to take deep breaths. I've been reading online and I think it's my sternum that aches, but I have no idea why. I haven't done anything to bruise it. Could I be sick in some way that's causing this?

Answer

Any kind of unexplained pain should be discussed with a physician. In this kind of situation, it would be best to start by seeing a primary care physician. He or she can then order any further testing or involve other specialists as needed. Pain with taking a deep breath can be caused by many different things. Musculoskeletal pain from a strain of the many muscles of the ribcage and back can cause pain with inhaling. Likewise, a fracture or bruise to the bones of the ribcage can also be very painful. These kinds of injuries often happen after either trauma or an increased amount of activity. It is also possible for conditions involving the heart or lungs to cause pain with inhaling. Infections can cause pneumonia or bronchitis which can be painful with inhalation. It is also possible for the lining around the heart or lungs to become inflamed. This is called pleuritis or pericarditis and can also be exquisitely painful in the area below the sternum. In general, infections or inflammation are often accompanied by other symptoms. A partial collapse of one of the lungs, called a pneumothorax, can also cause pain in the chest area. This condition is usually accompanied by shortness of breath. Overall, when having pain with taking a deep breath, it is best to seek care from a physician to help determine which of the many different possibilities may be causing symptoms. If pain is accompanied by any difficulty breathing or a high fever, it may be more appropriate to seek care directly in an emergency room.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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