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Sternum Popping

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What does sternum popping mean?

This is a medical condition that is associated with a cracking sound that is heard from your sternum, more commonly known as your breast bone.

Your sternum is a T-shaped bone that is located at the center of your chest and where your ribs are attached. When you pop your sternum the sound is often said to come from the sterno-clavicular joint, which is where your sternum is connected to your clavicle also known as your collarbone.

When you crack them voluntarily or stretch your healthy joints can produce a crackling sound but if these sounds are accompanied by the feeling of tightness and pain you should seek medical help.

Causes for Sternum Popping

sternum poppingThere is no apparent reason why a person should have sternum popping but there are some medical conditions that can cause this to happen. There could be damage to the ligaments and tendons that are connected to your sternum and when they release joint fluid you may hear this popping noise. It has also been thought that when there is significant cartilage damage it could result in the rubbing of two ends to the bones which could be responsible for the sternum popping sound.

Some of the other common causes that could be associated with this medical condition can include:

Physical strain

This can include excessive bench pressing or weight lifting which in turn can cause undue pressure on your chest wall. This undue pressure could result in spraining your tendons and ligaments around your sternum. In this case sternum popping could be from the result in subluxation of the joint.


If you have a trauma to your rib cage it could cause damage to your costochondral joint, which are the joints between your costal cartilage and your ribs in the front of your rib cage or your sternoclavicular joint, which is also known as a saddle joint that allows movement in two different directions, is dislocated. Sternum popping is normally observed in trauma cases like an assault, fall, or accident.


Inflammation of your costal cartilage known as costochondritis. A person can have this infection from a post operative complication of thoracic or cardiac surgery.

Tietze syndrome

Having Tietze syndrome, which is a benign inflammation of one or more of your costal cartilages and is usually found in young girls. It most often affects your second and third rib.

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can also be considered to be contributing factors. Having any type of arthritis can cause joint degeneration which will usually result in the rubbing of the two ends of the bone.

Sterna instability

This medical term is used with reference to a sternum that does not heal after surgery or some type of trauma. It is also known as sterna non-union.

Muscle spasms

This can also cause subluxation of the joint because due to tight muscles the degree of flexibility is limited.

Other Causes

  • Calcification of your costal cartilage
  • Sternum popping may also happen if you stretch your arms wide or tries deep breathing.

Sternum Popping Treatment

Sternum popping is usually not very serious and many times does not require treatment. If you experience any symptoms like swelling, limited mobility, tightness in your chest, or pain you should see your physician and have it treated promptly to reduce the level of discomfort and avoid any complication. For mild discomfort you could take over-the-counter NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Although it is rare to need surgical intervention in cases of severe discomfort it may be necessary.

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