Some of us may not have heard of the condition called sternum popping. However, a lot of people are actually experiencing this type of situation. So what is sternum popping and is it normal?
What is Sternum Popping
Sternum popping is defined as the cracking and/or the popping sound that is heard or produced from the breastbone. This sound is usually a product from the “clicking” of the joints that connects the breastbone and the ribs. The cartilage that fuses these bones together is called the costal cartilage. This costal cartilage extends starting from the rib cage all the way to the sternum.
Anatomy of the Rib Cage
The first 7 ribs are connected together by the cartilage to the sternum located at the sternocostal joints. The costochondrial joints are also the ones that are attached to the ribs by the same cartilages. The one that causes the popping sound is said to be the cartilages found in the clavicle and the sternum area or at the sternoclavicular joint. Once this popping is heard, joint swelling or tenderness, sternum pain and breastbone pain may be experienced all together by the patient.
Reasons for Sternum Popping
If truth be told, there isn’t actually any reason as to why this popping occurs in the joints. This however is usually caused by the snapping of the ligaments and/or tendons that leads to the release of gas bubbles from the joint fluid or cavitation or partial dislocation or sublaxation. A grating noise may also be heard once these two rough surfaces are rubbed against each other. This usually occurs once erosion is experienced to the bone or joint lining, which results from certain types of arthritis that persists over a long period of time.
Popping sternum is usually not considered a medical problem not unless pain and tenderness is already felt. The presence of swelling and limited mobility can also indicate seriousness in the condition. Nevertheless, these conditions may also settle over time or with the aid of some anti inflammatory drugs. The popping may also occur in a spontaneous manner; nevertheless, this is usually evident during deep breathing or wide arm stretching. Aside from this, the popping can also relieve the pain if it is present. Other studies have also found out that the popping sound as well as the pain can also be aggravated by stress.
Other Causes of Sternum Popping
• Trauma – trauma is one of the most common causes of sternum popping. Trauma can be a result from different factors such as injury to the chest area that can be a result from falls, car accident injuries and assaults. Physical trauma can also be a result from a great impact to the chest area affecting the joints and the bones of the rib cage.
• Physical Strain – physical strain can also produce the popping sound in the sternum. These strains are caused by excessive weight lifting, bench pressing as well as other activities that adds pressure on the chest wall that includes the muscles and the bones. A person exerting long and heavy weight on one hand or elbow can cause the weight to shift towards the costal cartilage leading to inflammation and sublaxation of the affected area.
• Health Conditions – other health condition can also lead to the production of sternum popping. Costochondritis is an example that can lead to this situation. Costochondritis is the inflammation of the costal cartilage that affects the fourth, fifth and sixth ribs. This inflammation can result from infections, post operative complications repeated minor trauma and as well as physical strain. Pain and tenderness can also be felt in this condition, but swelling is considered rare. Another condition is called the Tietze’s syndrome. This is actually very similar to cosotochondritis; however, this affects the second and the third ribs and are common among young girls. Aside from the production of pain, swelling is also evident in the situation. This is also caused by repeated minor injuries and physical strain such as hacking cough and repeated vomiting. Muscle spasms can also cause the sublaxation of the joint as the joint flexibility is limited due to tightness in the muscles. This can also be combined with chest pain. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are also possible causes of sternum popping. Although these diseases do not commonly affect these joints in the body, it is still possible that these areas can be included in cases of widespread arthritis. Joint degeneration caused by chronic arthritis could also produce a grating sound
Popping Sternum: Dangerous or Not?
Popping sternum is not considered a normal condition of the body. Nevertheless, this joint condition is usually not recognized as a medical problem or emergency. However, once this situation exhibits more than just the popping sound of the sternum, then it is already recommended to immediately seek the attention of a medical professional. The presence of joint selling, inflammation, immobility and pain are already enough symptoms to visit the doctor. The doctor will then prescribe drugs (anti-inflammatory medications) in order to lessen or decrease these symptoms.
Even though popping sternum is not considered a medical emergency, having this can be very discomforting and annoying. This is why we should never take this condition for granted.