Fractured Sternum: Causes Symptoms Diagnosis and Treatments

Fractured Sternum Overview

Symptoms of a fractured sternum include pain, swelling and more. Find out what causes a sternal fracture, the sort of treatment that can help recovery from this serious injury to your breastbone and whether you would qualify for free medical care and therapy in your area.

Fractured sternum

Fractured sternum

A fractured sternum is a serious injury to your chest which is the area of your body commonly referred to as the breastbone. The sternum sits in the midline of your chest and connects your collarbone to your first seven ribs, forming part of your ribcage. Often a sternum fracture is the result of direct trauma. If not treated as soon as possible, it can result in long-term complications which includes stiffness around your shoulders.

To find out whether you would qualify for treatment and physiotherapy aftercare free of charge at a private medical provider in your area, please click on the Select a Section below.

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What is a Fractured Sternum?

What are the Most Common Causes of a Fractured Sternum?

Fractured sternums are most commonly caused by trauma to the chest. In the majority of cases, the injury occurs when someone is involved in a road traffic accident or collision. Sternum injuries occur when a seat belt causes direct trauma to the chest.

Other common causes for this type of injury are detailed below:

  • Taking part in high-impact sports examples being rugby, hockey and football
  • Falling from a height
  • A motor collision in which you are the pedestrian

People who may be more susceptible to suffering from a fractured sternum include the following:

  • Those who suffer from health issues such as osteoporosis or thoracic kyphosis
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Older adults and the elderly
  • Those who have used steroids over a long period of time

What are the Symptoms of a Fractured Sternum?

If you suspect you have a sternal fracture, you should seek treatment immediately. A delay in diagnosis and treatment could prevent full recovery from a fracture of the sternum, causing complications or a delay in your healing process.

Symptoms of a fractured sternum include the following:

  • Pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • A noticeable deformity in the shape of your chest
  • Difficulty breathing

Pain that is commonly associated with a fractured sternum

When the sternum is fractured you could experience pain in your chest which typically develops rapidly, It is usually an intense or sharp pain when you attempt to cough, sneeze, laugh or inhale deeply.

You may find that overnight the pain you experience increases, with aching present in your chest area. This may be the case when you first wake up in the morning. Pain from a sternum fracture can also increase when lying on your side or when lying face down. Certain other movements which affect the sternum can also result in you experiencing acute pain, for instance when you attempt to bend forwards or sideways, if you twist or arch backwards. This can also be the case when moving or raising your upper limbs, when pulling, pushing/lifting heavy equipment/furniture, or carrying out overhead activities. Pain is normally also present if firm pressure is applied to your sternum.


  • Sternum fractures are sometimes accompanied by spasms in the centre of the chest.

Swelling or bruising

  • Following a fracture of the sternum, there is often bruising and swelling in the chest area. In the most severe instances, there may appear to be a deformity of the sternum which is caused by a bone being displaced. This can appear as an indentation that can be seen, felt or both within your chest area

Other symptoms of a broken sternum can include difficulty breathing. Pain or a sensation of pressure can occur when you attempt to take deep breaths.

How is a Fractured Sternum Diagnosed?

For a correct diagnosis, it is critical to visit a doctor straight away following an accident or incident that left you with a suspected fractured sternum injury. By seeking immediate treatment, it will also identify any additional injuries that you may have sustained in the accident. If you need surgery, it is essential that treatment is carried out quickly to secure the best outcome.

A fractured sternum is usually first seen and treated by emergency medical staff in the Accident and Emergency department of a hospital or by paramedics who attend a road traffic accident as this type of chest injury is often the result of a trauma you sustain in a car crash or collision. On arrival at hospital, doctors would confirm an initial diagnosis by carrying out a series of x-rays taken from various angles.

An x-ray used to detect a sternum fracture is called a lateral radiograph, which is designed to specifically detect and identify this kind of chest injury. You may also be required to take a CT scan in addition to the x-ray which would offer a more detailed image of your injury, the extent of the damage and how much soft tissue has been negatively impacted as a result of the incident.

Throughout your treatment, you would be closely monitored and you would need to attend follow-up appointments so a doctor can check the progress of your healing and whether any complications or infections have taken hold.

If you are unhappy with an NHS fractured sternum diagnosis you received, you may be entitled to a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report which you are entitled to have when you are first diagnosed with a suspected fractured sternum. To find out if this is so, please contact one of our health experts today who can let you know straight away whether you would qualify for not only a free assessment of the report, but free private treatment and aftercare in your area.

How is a Fractured Sternum Treated?

NHS treatment for a fractured sternum ranges from resting the injury to surgery depending on the complexity and the severity of your injury. A doctor would determine the best course of action after they have confirmed an initial diagnosis and assessing the severity of the fracture as well as your symptoms.

Surgery may be advised in very serious fractured sternum injuries this course of treatment usually applies when the bone has been shattered. You may require surgery to remove bone fragments and to re-set the bone in the correct position, which is achieved through plates and screws being inserted into bones that were negatively impacted in an accident.

For a relatively minor sternum fracture, you may be prescribed bed rest, along with medication to counter the pain. You would also be advised to undergo a course of physiotherapy to support your recovery and rehabilitation. It is worth noting that driving with a fractured sternum is not advised.

What Sort of Free Treatment Could I Qualify For?

Fractured sternum treatment

Fractured sternum treatment

You may find that you qualify for free private medical treatment following an accident or incident that left you with a fractured sternum. Many people receiving care through the NHS are unaware that they could qualify for private health care and therapy after care in their local area free of charge.

The sort of medical care you could receive can range from simple treatments to support your recovery, to more advanced treatments to aid healing time from a sternum fracture, such as rehabilitation. You may also qualify for free medical supplies which includes medical compresses.

Find out if you could qualify for free private medical treatment and aftercare for your injuries by contacting our friendly and professional team today. We can tell you within 30 seconds whether you would be entitled to receive free treatment from a private medical health care provider local to you which could go a long way in helping speed up your recovery.

What Sort of Free Treatment for a Fractured Sternum Could I be Entitled To?

A range of treatment options could be on offer to you following an accident or incident that left you suffering from a fracture to the sternum. This includes medical compresses and ice packs, physiotherapy and a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report all of which could assist in your treatment and your recovery.

To find out more, please get in touch with one of our team of health experts today and find out whether you could be eligible for one or more free private medical treatments for your sternum fracture in your area.

Are There Any Complications Associated with a Fractured Sternum?

Complications can emerge following a fracture in the sternum, mainly due to the location of the injury, which can make deep breathing more painful. As a result of the rest that is advised by your doctor after a sternum fracture, you may also experience stiffness in your shoulder and around your spine which is due to a lack of regular movement during the recovery process. This is often treated by doing specific physiotherapy exercises which are designed to strengthen weakened muscles.

I Think My Doctor Missed Something When Diagnosing My Fractured Sternum?

If you feel that your doctor may have missed something when examining your fractured sternum or that they may have misdiagnosed your injury, we advise people to carry out their own independent research to find out more about sternum fractures, symptoms and treatments. This can help you to make an informed judgement regarding your ongoing care and help confirm any worries you may have about a diagnosis and treatment.

To find out more about fractured sternum symptoms and treatments, please follow the links provided at the bottom of this page.

How Long Does a Fractured Sternum Take to Heal?

Healing time from a sternal fracture commonly takes several months but this depends on the complexity and the severity of your injury. The average recovery time is around 10 ½ weeks. However, if treatment includes surgery which would be the case if you sustained a more serious sternal injury – your recovery may take a considerable amount of time running into several months.

It is worth noting that physiotherapy can aid your healing process and help to counter any ongoing stiffness around the shoulders, arms and spine that you may experience.

If you have any concerns about your injuries during the recovery period, contact your doctor immediately as a precaution. This is particularly important if severe pain is still present after eight weeks or if you develop a fever, experience shortness of breath or cough up yellow, green or bloody phlegm as this may be indicative of a chest infection which would need treating sooner rather than later. A doctor would prescribe a course of antibiotics and it is important that you complete the course to prevent any resistance to the medication.

Can I Safely Speed Up My Fractured Sternum Recovery Time?

Physiotherapy is one of the most effective treatments to support your long-term recovery from a fractured sternum. It can include advice on how best to sleep while suffering a fracture on the sternum, through to introducing tailored physio exercises to aid healing and any stiffness that has resulted from the injury and long period of recovery.

Free private medical care could play a key role in your recovery. This may be available if you have suffered a sternum fracture and you are a UK resident. The treatments you could benefit from include simple support and advice to more advanced private medical care in a private health facility close to your home, physiotherapy aftercare and medical supplies all of which could go a long way in speeding up your recovery.

Please contact our team of health experts to find out if you could be eligible for free additional support from a private health care provider in your area today.

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Associated with a Fractured Sternum?

People suffering from a sternal injury may experience short-term complications. In more severe cases, you may experience longer term health issues that are associated with this type of chest injury.

Short-term complications as the result of an injury to the sternum include chest pain. This is the most common complication experienced short-term by patients who suffer from this type of injury.

Chest pain from a fractured sternum can last from 8 to 12 weeks and may impact your ability to cough. It is important that you still try to cough as normal in spite of the fracture, as failing to clear your lungs through coughing can lead to the development of a chest infection.

There are a few things you can try to ensure that your fractured sternum does not result in a chest infection. These include:

  • Avoid taking any cough medication during your recovery process
  • You should never try not to cough as this can lead to further problems, Ensure you take deep breaths as often as possible
  • Make sure you keep your chest wall well supported if you do have to cough

It is essential that you contact your doctor if you notice any signs of fever, shortness of breath or cough up phlegm that is yellow, green in colour or contains blood. Your doctor should also be informed if severe pain has not subsided after eight weeks.

If you have fractured your sternum following a trauma to your chest, an example being from a seat belt in a road traffic accident, you may also have bruising to lung tissue or your heart. There may be ongoing complications if any of these health issues fail to heal as they should. This can result in a painful condition called pseudarthrosis, which in layman’s terms, means “false joint,” where unhealed parts of the bone act like a joint. This is more common in cases that involve older adults, the elderly or if you have any existing health issues such as diabetes or osteoporosis. Pseudarthrosis can also affect people who are taking steroid medication. It is worth noting that you may need to undergo surgery to treat this condition.

Other long-term effects of a fractured sternum may include pain and stiffness in the shoulders and/or spine. This happens because of inactivity during the recovery period, however these symptoms should clear up after a few weeks. It can be helped through physiotherapy treatment. If there is no noticeable improvement after this time, it is important to seek advice from your doctor. Failing to visit a doctor quickly could lengthen your fractured sternum recovery time. In spite of the complications that can arise from a fractured sternum injury, a full recovery is possible, especially with rest and where care is taken to avoid developing a lung infection.

Get in Touch Today and Find Out What Treatment is Available in Your Area

If you don’t know that many UK residents are eligible for free private medical care, you may be missing out on additional treatments for your sternum fracture. Many people are unaware that they could benefit from treatments, therapies as well as medical supplies, orthopaedic services and physiotherapy, which may be available free of charge at a local private medical centre. Taking advantage of this free healthcare can support your recovery from a fractured sternum, helping you recover strength and motion, while at the same time aiding a speedy healing process safely in a clean environment.

A call takes just 30 seconds and our friendly health experts will check your eligibility and run through the care packages that are potentially available in your area. Our phone lines are open from 9 am to 11 pm every day of the week. Call us today on 020 3870 4868, a health expert is waiting to take your call.

Links to Helpful Information About Fractures to Your Sternum

If you suffered a fracture to your sternum, the following link provides essential reading on this type of chest injury:

More about chest injuries

If you suffered a serious injury to your chest and would like more information on this type of injury, the following link provides valuable information on how to cope:

More about chest and breastbone injuries