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Types of Chest Injuries - Topic Overview

A blow to the chest can cause a minor or serious injury. It is not unusual to have the "wind knocked out of you" and be short of breath for a few minutes after a blow to the chest.

Even after a chest injury, it is important to determine whether your pain might be caused by a heart problem. If you do not have any symptoms of a heart attack or angina, your pain is probably caused by your chest injury.

Serious chest injury

Pain or difficulty breathing that starts immediately after an injury may mean that organs inside the chest, such as the lungs, heart, or blood vessels, have been damaged. Other symptoms often develop quickly, such as severe shortness of breath or signs of shock.

A forceful blow to the chest can injure organs in the chest or upper abdomen.

  • A blow to the front of the chest (sternum) can injure the heart or large blood vessels or the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach (esophagus).
  • A blow to the chest can injure the lungs or the airway (trachea).
  • A blow to the back of the chest can injure a kidney.
  • A blow to the side of the chest or the lower chest can injure the liver or spleen.

Minor chest injury

You may have chest wall pain after a less serious injury. This pain can occur with movement of a shoulder, an arm, the rib cage, or the trunk of the body.

Even a minor injury can cause chest pain for days after the injury. Deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing can increase the pain, as can pressing down on or lying on the injured area.

Minor injuries often do not require a visit to a doctor. Home treatment can relieve the pain and discomfort.

Rib fracture

An injury to the chest may break or crack a rib or injure the cartilage of the rib cage. Symptoms of a bruised rib or broken rib include:

  • Sharp, severe pain in the area of the chest injury.
  • Pain that gets worse when you breathe or cough.
  • Pain that gets worse when you press or lie on the injured area.

Rib fractures are painful but often can be treated at home if no other symptoms develop. See the Home Treatment section of this topic.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 13, 2012
    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.
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