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Blunt Chest Trauma

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What is blunt chest trauma?

Blunt chest trauma is a sudden, forceful injury to your chest. It is often caused by a car or motorcycle accident, blast injury, or a fall. It may also be caused by a sports injury, such as a hit from a baseball. You may have no signs or symptoms, or you may have bruising, pain, or soreness.

How is blunt chest trauma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your injury. Questions may include when and how your accident happened. Your healthcare provider will examine the injured area for bruising and broken bones. You may need to have x-rays or a CT scan to check for internal injuries. You may be given contrast liquid to make pictures clearer. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a reaction to contrast liquid in the past.

How is blunt chest trauma treated?

Prescription pain medicine may be given. Your healthcare provider may also recommend you to take NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen. NSAIDs help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Ask how to take these medicines safely. Take the medicine on a regular schedule to manage your pain.

How can I care for myself at home?

It can take up to 6 weeks for your injury to heal completely. It will be painful to take deep breaths, cough, and sleep.

  • Deep breathe and cough to help prevent pneumonia. Take 10 deep breaths every hour, even when you wake up during the night. Brace your ribs with your hands or a pillow while you take deep breaths or cough. This will help decrease your pain.
  • Use your incentive spirometer to help you take deeper breaths. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and take a very deep breath. Hold your breath as long as you can. Then let out your breath. Do this 10 times in a row every hour while you are awake.
  • Sleep in a recliner or upright position, the first few nights, to decrease the pain.
  • Keep moving around your home. Do not stay in bed. Take short walks. This will help your lungs work properly and decrease your risk for pneumonia.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals decrease the amount of oxygen in your body. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a fever
  • You become short of breath
  • You cough up yellow, green, or bloody sputum.
  • You have new or increased pain.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your pain does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • Your pain lasts longer than 8 weeks.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.