T Nation

Sternum Problems

You know how people can “crack” their knuckles? Well, I sometimes crack my sternum. I used to do it a lot out of habit, but then I quit for the most part. Every once in a while it would feel really tight, so I would crack it. The last few times I did that it hurt like hell for the next two days, so I stopped that too. Last night it popped accidentally when I was working out, and sure enough, it still hurts. Has anyone else experienced this? Any idea what causes this? Are there certain stretches I can do to prevent it?

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My sternum cracks from time to time too, just like every fricken part on me. I think my dick can make a cracking noises too. Okay no it can’t but hehehe. I can’t actually crack my sternum when I want to like you can. As for pain usually it doesn’t hurt but it does sometimes, not for 2 days though. It hasn’t cracked in like ummmmmm months. So no I haven’t helped you out at all. Sorry. :frowning:

This has now gotten to the point where it is interfering with my workouts. I was supposed to do dips, chins, clean & press, and deads tonight, but was only able to do deads. I might have been able to work through the pain on the others, but I don’t want to make it worse, and it made a little crack again warming up for chins. Do you guys think I should see a doctor on this? Maybe get an X-ray? It started Saturday, and still hurts now (Tuesday night).

I would only worry about it if you also have the concave chest and inverted breastbone common with Marfan’s syndrome (sp?) Otherwise I would say it’s probably actually a good thing…meaning it could be that your rib cage area is actualy expanding in response to your growth and weight training. The pain you’re feeling could be due to the stretching of the cartilage which tends to hurt like hell.

I had the same problem when doing heavy weighted dips. Try skipping the dips or limiting the range for awhile(limit the stretch).

Just in case anyone wants to know: It finally got bad enough for me to go to the doctor. The sternum is actually three bones held together by ligaments. My injury is in the joint between the top bone and the one under it. Turns out I must have injured it in wrestling about four years ago and stretched out the ligaments that hold these two bones together. This is why it cracks, I guess. I must have strained the ligaments or something lately, and it will just take some time to heal. The doctor said that for the next few months I should stay away from high weight, low reps on chest exercises, or anything else that hurts it. Damn! But at least it’s nothing serious and he didn’t tell me to stop working out (which I probably wouldn’t have done). I might be looking for a new routine pretty soon.

Patman,answer some questions please. How old are you? How did your doctor determine this was the specific injured area? If the injury hasn’t healed in four years, why does he think it will heal in a couple of months just by laying off heavy bench? Certainly it has had more than enough time to heal. What is your upper body posture like? Your chest being “tight” leads me belive you may have a “round shoulders” posture. What is your training age? What is the ratio of vertical pushing to vertical pulling? What is the ratio of horizontal pushing to horizontal pulling? By the way, whenever you force a joint to “crack” and experience pain, especially for a couple of days following the event, it’s never a “good thing”. With normal growth the ribcage could not expand that quickly to cause cartilage pain. Acute rotational or compress injuries around the ribcage, especially those associated with rib fractures tend to tear or “stretch” the costocartilage. The old diagnosis of “growing pains” is another way of saying “I don’t know what’s wrong with you”. Should I associate lumbar and knee pain with growth as well?

I am 20 years old and I’ve been training for about 4 years. The doctor felt a bump or “ridge” where the pain was, and he pushed in certain places and told me to move different ways, asking if it hurt. He also took an X-ray. He said the ligaments healed loosely the first time I injured it, and I re-injured it recently. I may have somewhat of a round shoulders posture. I try to sit/stand up straight most of the time, but occasionally catch myself slouching out of habit. My horizontal pushing and pulling are equal, although I believe my back grows and my chest doesn’t.

I wonder if maybe regularly cracking the chest kept the area flexible? Up until about a year ago, I cracked it several times a day, and never experienced pain. But when I decided to try to break the habit, I noticed that the less I did it, the more it hurt when I did, and the harder it was to do. When I went a month or so without doing it, the pain got very bad when it did happen. Maybe not cracking it (it cracks when stretched, arching my back and pulling the elbows back) caused the ligaments to tighten up or become less elastic, requiring a greater force to move the bones. See where I’m comming from? Just an idea.

On a related note, I’m 27 years old, and for the past 3 or 4 years I’ve had consistent increases in the amount of cracking in my back and neck. Now, MANY times per day, I can straighten out or arch my back and infinite little crackles will occur, mainly in my mid- to upper spine and the lower part of my neck. My neck itself can be cracked quite loudly (and almost shockingly) by lowering my head toward the left shoulder, and then toward the right shoulder, several times per day. AND, just in the past few months, when I’m in bed and have been lying on one side, when I roll over to the other side and pull my leg over my body into the normal resting position, by lower back will go, “KA-CHUNK!” REALLY loudly/violently. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s quite shocking, as this never used to happen. Everyone says, “Yeah, it’s fine, it’s just your joints releasing pressure or gas or something, don’t worry about it,” but I’m worried because it never USED to happen, and all of this back/neck cracking is sometimes necessary in order to be comfortable. In other words, a little pressue or tightness builds up, prompting me to crack it and relieve the pressure. It’s not really painful pressure, just annoying. Is everything OK, or are years of heavy lifting slowly crippling me or something?

Like you I have experienced this problem, it is very frustrating and painful. Although I am not sure of the exact cause your doc was right, that this bone juncture is basically a “joint”. I the first time I injured mine, I was doing straight bar pullovers and behind the back shrugs, several months I did it again, while vigoriously sweeping a parking lot. The pain and cracking continued to get worse until I stopped all upper body lifting and stretching, sorry to say it took a couple months to heal and still pops occasionally (but no pain). What I would recommend, for you is to take a glucosamine and chondrioton supplement (1.5 to 2 times the recommended dose). And lay off any upper body exercises that stretch you upper body (ie. flyes, dips, pullovers, be careful with going to wide on bench). Best of luck and let me know how things turn out.

Patman, as your skeletal system matures, this joints will “tighten up” so to speak. If you had an injury to that area you may have developed some scar tissue which may make the injured joint more painful. That joint is very stable. For an injury to occur in that area you must have recieved a tremendous blow to the chest or frequent(100’s) of moderate blows. What was your horizontal pushing to pulling ratios like a year or two ago? Also it is possible that as a wrestler you may suffered from rib a subluxation or dislocation. Although they occur infrequently, they do occur. The “popping” you heard/felt may be the reducing of the subluxed or mis-aligned rib(s). As time goes on they “tighten up” with scar tissue. If there is an instability in the joint with scar tissue “popping” it makes it feel good until it “tightens up” too much and it requires more force to “pop” it. This could be the problem compounded with poor posture and too much vertical and horizontal pressing. Please respond.

I’ve always worked my back just as much, if not more than my chest/delts, so I don’t think that’s it. But my posture isn’t the greatest, so that might be part of the problem. I don’t remember the first time I injured it being that hard of a blow, but it was the first time I had ever wrestled, or been in any contact sport, and someone was teaching me a throw. He threw me onto a pile of mats and landed on my chest, so I don’t know if that’s a very hard blow, like you talked about. Maybe hundreds of moderate blows over the next three years, I don’t really know. I don’t think I ever dislocated a rib, unless you can do that without feeling it. Should I have never stopped popping it? Should I listen to the doctor and stop doing high intensity low reps?