Ask The Trainer #164 – Dealing With Sternum Pain

Ask The Trainer #164 - Dealing With Sternum Pain


Hi. I was wondering if you could help me? I’ve been having some bad pain in my sternum every time I try to train my chest. It started about 3 weeks ago, the day after a heavy chest workout. I was wondering if maybe I could of torn my sternum or something? Do you have any idea what might be causing this pain, or how long it will take to go away? Thanks.



Hi Jon. I highly doubt you could have actually torn your sternum, although a stress fracture could be possible. But, even that is not very likely either.

Sternal fractures are generally caused by some type of intense trauma such as a motor vehicle accident, extremely hard fall, or some other type of brutal, blunt force trauma. It is uncommon for sternal fractures to be a result of lifting, but it’s not unheard of.

I’d bet what you’re likely experiencing is a type of injury known as costochondritis. This is a condition where the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum becomes inflamed, causing pain when the pectorals stretch and contract. Sternum pain may also be triggered by inhaling or coughing. I was actually diagnosed with this condition by a sports medicine doctor when I was 19.

Considering the fact this pain began the day after a heavy chest workout, I’d bet dollars to donuts you’re experiencing a case of costochondritis. This would be a much more plausible scenario than a sternal fracture. However, that is just my educated guess.

Ask A Medical Professional

If you want a more definite diagnosis, I suggest you consult a sports medicine doctor or similar medical expert. Such a doctor would feel along your sternum for tenderness or swelling. The doctor may also apply pressure to your ribcage, or have you move your arms in certain positions to zero in on the source of the pain.

Whatever your diagnosis is, the treatment plan will consist of using strategies to relieve the pain as you’re waiting for the injury to heal. In reality, this can take weeks or even months. When I had this condition, I think it took almost 3 months to go away.

Unlike most other types of sports injuries, there isn’t much you can do in terms of stretches and exercises to speed up the healing process for this particular type of injury. Your best bet is to avoid movements that trigger the sternum pain.

Alternative Therapies

Also, focus on ways to promote blood circulation and reduce inflammation. In the past, I’ve had great luck with acupuncture and laser therapy. These are great for speeding up the healing process for several types of soft tissue injuries. Both therapies promote increased blood flow to injured tissues, which will help decrease recovery time.

This is especially good when you’re dealing with injured soft tissues like cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Blood flow to these tissues is extremely poor, which is why they can sometimes take so long to heal!

A doctor would likely recommend taking some type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage pain and reduce inflammation. Ibuprofen and sodium naproxen are examples of over-the-counter NSAIDs that are very popular. If necessary, your doctor may write up a prescription for a more powerful anti-inflammatory medication like Diclofenac or Meloxicam.

It possible for these types of medications to damage the stomach lining, kidneys, and liver. That’s why I personally opt for natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Tart cherries and tart cherry extracts contain natural chemicals known as anthocyanins that are extremely effective at reducing inflammation without unwanted side-effects.

Try Turmeric

Additionally, the spice turmeric contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as curcuminoids. There is literally mountains of research available demonstrating its effectiveness at relieving inflammation.

There are hundreds of supplement manufacturers producing turmeric/curcumin capsules and tablets. They are sometimes very expensive.

For people on a budget, I recommend going to the grocery store and purchasing turmeric as a powdered spice for around $3.00. You can then purchase a package of empty capsules online for around $4. This way you can pack the powder into the empty capsules yourself. It’s a bit tedious and time-consuming. But, you will save a lot of money in the long run!

I’ve even done this myself. When I did, I also added a little black pepper to the turmeric powder, which will help your body assimilate the curcuminoids from the turmeric more efficiently. I found that taking 2 standard-sized capsules, 2-3 times per day with meals produced good results.

Hopefully, this information helps answer your question. I wish you all the best of success in your health and training endeavors!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,

Chad Shaw

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