A chest contusion, or bruise, is caused by a fall or direct blow to the chest. Car crashes, falls, getting punched, and injury from bicycle handlebars are common causes of chest contusions. A very forceful blow to the chest can injure the heart or blood vessels in the chest, the lungs, the airway, the liver, or the spleen.
Pain may be caused by an injury to muscles, cartilage, or ribs. Deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing can increase your pain. Lying on the injured area also can cause pain.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain.
- Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, apply a heating pad set on low or a warm cloth to your chest. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold. Put a thin cloth between the heating pad and your skin.
- Do not wrap or tape your ribs for support. This may cause you to take smaller breaths, which could increase your risk of pneumonia and lung collapse.
- Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
- Even if it hurts, try to cough or take the deepest breath you can at least once every hour. This will get air deeply into your lungs. This may reduce your chance of getting pneumonia. Hold a pillow against your chest to make this less painful.
- Gentle stretching and massage may help you feel better after a few days of rest. Stretch slowly to the point just before discomfort begins, then hold the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do this 3 or 4 times per day.
- As your pain gets better, slowly return to your normal activities. Be patient, because chest bruises can take weeks or months to heal. Any increased pain may be a sign that you need to rest a while longer.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You cough up blood.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have belly pain.
- You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
- You develop new symptoms with the chest pain.
- Your chest pain gets worse.
- You have a fever.
- You have some shortness of breath.
- You have a cough that brings up mucus from the lungs.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- Your chest pain is not improving after 1 week.
Where can you learn more?
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