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Susan Ivy
Susan Ivy, Nurse (RN)
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I have been advised I have severely bruised my sternum in a ...

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I have been advised I have severely bruised my sternum in a car accident. XRays confirm no fractures. However the pain is becoming worse. I am taking anti-inflammatory tablets and paracetamol as they advised at hospital but it makes little difference. Is there anything else I can do to help myself ?


Thank you for using Justanswer for you question.

I am sorry to hear of your accident. It is often the case that the pain from a car accident is worse up to 72 hours after the accident.

You may place ice packs on the area to keep swelling down and help with pain during the first 48 hours. After 48 hours you may start using warm packs to bring circulation in to help assist the blood with repair of soft tissue damage and removal of waste to the area, and it will also help with pain.

Please don't burn the area. Leave the heating pad on for 15 to 20 minutes, then off for at least an hour.

It may sound odd, but like any bruised or injured area you will want to keep your chest elevated to assist with drainage and to prevent pain from fluid collection. So for example, make sure you sleep on your back, and you may want to elevate the head of the bed or chest if possible.

You must make sure you are taking several deep breaths every 15 minutes while awake. With a chest injury sometimes it hurts to take deep breaths and this can lead to you getting a lung infection or pneumonia. This injury might not effect you this way depending if your ribs are effected, but pay attention, and make sure that you take increased deep breaths rather than only shallow breathes. You can check to see if you are breathing enough by counting how many times you breath per minute. Normal is 16 to 20.

Another thing to watch for is to make sure your pulse does not become too rapid. This could indicate either not enough breathing or oxygen, but also that your heart is trapped or tamponading. This is a rare side effect of this type of injury. The way to count your pulse is to feel in the ridge of you wrist between the area in the the wrist that is directly below the thumb and index finger. You should be able to feel the artery there. You can also feel for the carotid pulse in your neck, but only press on one side at a time and be sitting down when you do this because it can occassionally make you faint. Count and see how many beats you feel for one minute. You can also count for 15 seconds and multiply the result by four to get the correct pulse. Normal is 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you pulse gets too low or two high you may want to return to the ER or call emergency services.

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water as well, this will help to keep secretions fluid in your lungs to help again prevent infection, and it will assist somewhat with keeping your blood thin to prevent too much clotting.

Normally one aspirin might help to make sure there is not too much clotting, but since you are already taking antiinflammatorys, do not do this unless your doctor tells you to.

If the pain becomes unbearable, seek further treatment. If you have some one to monitor your breathing and stay with you they might give you a stronger opiod type pain medication, but as this type of medication suppresses respirations, that is probably the reason they did not.

If you have further question about this subject, don't hesitate to write on the reply.

Thank you and good luck,


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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
My car accident was in fact last Friday but I didn't go for X Rays until Wednesday morning as I had too many work commitments that were urgent. However, now I am so exhausted - by pain I think - I have also developed a heavy cold so between hurting when I sneeze or cough and being "bunged up" - I haven't "made myself" try and breathe deeply as - yes - it hurts too much. Even moving from a sitting down position to a standing up position is excruciating but - now I have decided I can't avoid taking a few days off sick - at least at home I can "hold on to my chest and breasts" as I move and try and cough etc !
I hadn't thought to drink water rather than usual tea and coffee so I'll do more of that from now on and do my best to take regular deep breaths even though it hurts as - with a cold now AND unfortunately still being a smoker with a bit of asthma (using my inhaler far more than I normally would have to) I know I might be vulnerable to chest infections.
As it's 0348 UK time, I won't look for a reply until after I get up from bed and now I have declared myself "off sick" (I am a church minister)I plan to rest in bed for as long as it eases the pain - so no rush for your reply but thank you already & best wishes.

Hello, sorry I just am getting back to Justanswer this evening and saw your message.

Yes with the smoking, asthma, and level of pain you have, you are at risk for pneumonia, so be careful.

I agree the rest sounds like a very good idea at this time to help you get over this. You may need to turn your phone off too, if you are the type of minister that has constant phone calls, you may need the reminding that you must rest and take care of yourself sometimes!

Thank you for the accept, and if you especially are not finding relief from the pain after a day or two of rest, it would be best to notify your Doctor.

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