Skip to content

    Asthma Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Chest Retractions

    Chest retractions are a sucking in of the skin in between or around the bones of the chest when inhaling. Retractions may occur in several areas of the chest and are a sign of increased use of the chest muscles for breathing. This usually is a sign of difficulty breathing.

    As breathing becomes more difficult, areas of the chest where retractions can be seen increase.

    • Mild difficulty breathing may cause retraction in the belly, just below the rib cage (subcostal) and at the bottom of the breastbone (substernal).
    • Moderate difficulty breathing may cause retraction in the same areas of the chest and belly as mild difficulty breathing, but now retraction between the ribs (intercostal retractions) is also present.
    • Severe difficulty breathing may cause retraction in the same of the areas of the chest and belly as mild and moderate difficulty breathing, but now retraction in the neck, just above the collarbone (supraclavicular) or just above the breastbone (suprasternal), is also present.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, MD

    Current as ofJune 4, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

    Start Now

    Today on WebMD

    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    5 common triggers.
    group jogging in park
    Should you avoid fitness activities?
     
    asthma inhaler
    Learn about your options.
    man feeling faint
    What’s the difference?
     
    Madison Wisconsin Capitol
    Slideshow
    woman wearing cpap mask
    Article
     
    red wine pouring into glass
    Slideshow
    Woman holding inhaler
    Quiz
     
    Man outdoors coughing
    Article
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    Article
     
    10 Worst Asthma Cities
    Slideshow
    runner
    Article