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

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
  • Pain that gets worse when you breathe or
  • Pain that gets worse when you press or lie on the injured

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

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017

Current as of:
March 20, 2017