Bones Joints and Muscles1 Comment

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Asked by colinadms on the Popping, Cracking, Clicking Sternum article.

For the past two years I have had pain on the left side of my chest either just inside my nipple or along the edge of my sternum. It can be anywhere from just under my collarbone to about half way down my rib cage. This pain comes and goes but is usually at its strongest for just a second.

When the pain first started I was doing quite a bit of weight lifting but because of the pain I haven’t lifted in about a year. I have had my heart checked out and everything comes back normal and healthy. When I stretch my chest (pulling my shoulder blades together) I get a popping sound from my sternum.

Usually this will result in pain after some time. Ibuprofine seems to help some but, because of the pain I have been taking it almost every day. My doctor has no diagnosis for me but this is causing quite a bit of anxiety.

Also, There is some swelling near the sternum and when the pain is really bad you can feel the swollen “lumps” if you run your hand down the edge of the sternum. Can you help? Thanks.

1 Comment on this article

  • Dr. Chris September 19, 2010

    Hi Colinadms

    This is most likely related to the cartilages that join the ends of the ribs to the breastbone – costal cartilages.These cartilages articulate (moves on a joint) with the rib at one end, and the breastbone at the other end. It gives your chest cavity flexibility to expand and contract with breathing.

    The cartilage itself may be inflamed or not articulating properly with the joint. Since you can feel “lumps”, it is likely the cartilage itself that you are feeling. Inflammation of the costal cartilages will cause it to swell and thereby not articulate properly in its respective joints. This could cause a popping noise when it is under strain. You can read more about this in the article on Breastbone Pain.

    From what you are describing, this is most likely costochondritis although it must be remembered that arthritis may also cause some of these symptoms although it does not usually affect these joints. Since you have stopped weight lifting and the symptoms are persisting, it is unlikely that it is related to the pectoral muscles, although the tendons could be affected.

    If anti-inflammatories are not helping, you may need a corticosteroid injection in the area. Some enlargement of the costal cartilages on the left side may be evident when compared to the cartilages on the right. This may not be easily detected upon an x-ray. Speak to your doctor about a referral to an orthopedist (orthopedic surgeon).


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