Your chest protects vital organs like your heart and lungs. It also provides the strength you need to carry your upper limbs and head.
When you injure your chest, you can experience symptoms ranging from pain to life-threatening damage to your vital organs. You might recover in a few weeks or require emergency treatment to save your life.
Read on to learn more about how a chest injury happens and the compensation you can seek for one.
What Are the Structure and Functions of Your Chest?
Doctors usually do not use the term “chest” to describe that part of your body. Instead, they use the term thorax. The thorax is the section of your body between your head and abdomen. Your thorax begins with your shoulders and ends at your diaphragm.
Doctors also distinguish between your chest (or thorax) and your chest cavity (or thoracic cavity).
The chest cavity contains your heart, lungs, trachea, and major blood vessels. The chest is the musculoskeletal structure that encloses the chest cavity. This means that your chest includes the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments surrounding your vital organs, but not the organs themselves.
The most characteristic structure of your chest is your rib cage. You have 12 pairs of ribs. The ribs fit into joints in the thoracic vertebrae of your spine. Ligaments hold the ribs in the joints.
Your sternum sits in the center of the front of your chest. The top seven ribs on each side, the true ribs, attach to the sternum through cartilage. Thus, the true ribs attach to the sternum in your front and your spine in your back.
The next three ribs on each side, the false ribs, attach to the true ribs through cartilage. The false ribs attach to the sternum indirectly through the true ribs.
The bottom two ribs on each side, the floating ribs, only attach to the spine. They do not attach to the sternum directly or indirectly.
The Muscles and Tendons
The intercostal muscles sit between the ribs. These muscles help with respiration by expanding your chest cavity, which provides space for the lungs to expand.
Other muscles sit over the rib cage. The pectoralis muscles, for example, sit under your breast on each side. As the largest muscles in your chest, they help elevate and flex your arm. They also assist in breathing by lifting your chest.
Several smaller muscles in your chest attach through tendons to your collarbones, ribs, spine, shoulder blades, and upper arm bones. These muscles help you carry and move your upper body, arms, and neck.
What Causes Chest Injuries?
Traumatic chest injuries can result from three types of trauma:
Blunt trauma happens when a force strikes your chest without piercing the skin. You suffer from blunt trauma when you hit the ground after a slip & fall accident. Similarly, when your chest hits your seat belt during a car accident, the seat belt causes blunt trauma.
Blunt trauma can break your bones and stretch or tear your chest’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Penetrating trauma happens when an object pierces your chest. A tool blade ejected from a defective product would produce a penetrating injury if it hit your chest.
Penetrating trauma creates several risks that you do not have with blunt trauma. Penetrating trauma can cause bleeding and create the risk of infection. If the object penetrates deep enough, it can pierce the chest wall and endanger your vital organs.
You do not necessarily need to get hit with something to suffer a chest injury. The forces on your body from an accident can hyperextend the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your chest. These hyperextension injuries can lead to strains, sprains, and dislocation injuries.
What Types of Chest Injuries Can Occur?
Chest injuries can take many different forms, including:
Sprained or Strained Chest
Sprains happen when the chest ligaments get stretched or torn. Thus, you would experience a sprain if the ligament holding one of your ribs to your spine gets hyperextended during an accident.
Symptoms of a sprain include:
- Limited range of motion
- Popping sound or feeling during the injury
Strains happen when the chest muscles or tendons get stretched or torn.
Symptoms of a strained chest include:
- Muscle spasms
Doctors rarely operate to repair a sprained or strained chest. Instead, they will usually prescribe rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Strains and sprains usually heal on their own in four to six weeks.
Ribs can dislocate if you sprain the ligaments holding them to your spine. They can also dislocate if the cartilage in the front of your chest tears. When a rib dislocates, you will likely experience pain when taking a breath.
Cartilage and ligaments will heal over time. If you rest and reduce the swelling with ice and anti-inflammatories, the rib will usually move back into place.
Fractured ribs happen when a force snaps the rib into at least two pieces. Fractured ribs produce pain and bruises. They usually heal on their own in six to eight weeks. Doctors no longer tape your chest to immobilize fractured ribs because restrictions on your breathing can lead to pneumonia.
A pneumothorax is also called a collapsed lung. It happens when a penetrating injury allows air to rush into the pleural space between your lung and chest wall. This space normally contains a vacuum. This vacuum allows your lungs to expand with air.
When air gets into the pleural space, its pressure prevents your lungs from expanding. You will gasp for breath and suffer from severe distress. Without emergency treatment, you could experience permanent lung damage or even death.
What Compensation Can You Get for a Chest Injury Caused By Someone’s Negligence?
Injury compensation covers your economic and non-economic losses after an accident. If you can prove that the accident resulted from someone else’s negligent conduct, you can recover money for your medical bills, lost income, pain, and suffering.
A chest injury can interfere with your ability to work and care for yourself. If you suffer a penetrating wound to your chest, you could even require emergency treatment to save your life. To learn about the compensation you can seek for a chest injury, contact Marzzacco Niven & Associates for a free consultation at (717) 231-1640.