Mended Hearts Open Forum

 View Only
Expand all | Collapse all

Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

  • 1.  Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-24-2022 16:56

    I'm a 53 yo male and had open-heart mitral valve repair five weeks ago. For the first 2 1/2 weeks I had zero pain in my sternum and chest. During that time I thought wow, this is a cinch!

    But then I started having discomfort and then pain. First it was a tightness in my pec muscles, starting about an inch from my sternum and outward toward my shoulders. It felt like something was hanging off of chest. My ribs near the sternum were also sore and tender to touch. Then I started to feel moderate pressure, as if someone was sitting on my chest (lightly). Around that time I also started to feel pain in my actual sternum whenever I did very light activities with my arms, including lifting a smartphone, pressing my spoon down into semi-soft ice cream in a cup, picking up a pillow, etc. 

    The discomfort and pain have been pretty constant since, maybe increasing slightly over time. I'm told by the doctors and nurses this is normal, that it takes 6-8 weeks for the sternum to initially heal. I'm confused about how I can be pain free for 2 1/2 weeks after surgery and then have pain doing the simplest of things. It makes me concerned that my sternum healing as taken a turn for the worse.

    Anyone else experience this type of pain progression after their open heart surgery?

    Billy Weston

  • 2.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-25-2022 04:29

    Hi Billy,

    I had quintuple bypass surgery four and a half years ago.  I did not have the post-op discomfort you describe, but I did have some left pectoral muscle tightness that began maybe two months post-op and went away on its own after a couple of months.  It likely was scar tissue formation from removal if my left mammary artery used to graft my left anterior descending coronary artery.  I also developed some discomfort at the bottom of my sternum if I put pressure on it but was assured it was nothing.  

    I know you spoke to doctors and nurses about your discomfort, but did that include speaking to your thoracic surgeon?  They use what a cardiologist friend of mine described as "basically baling wire" to hold your sternum together and the healing process around the wire can cause pain and discomfort.  I would check with the surgeon just to make sure there isn't some non-routine issue like infection that requires treatment.Best of luck and place keep us posted.


    Ira Reid
    Hoboken NJ

  • 3.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-25-2022 05:42
    I had a quintuple by-pass in May 2021.  It takes about a year to say you feel somewhat back to normal.  Still have some slight discomfort in sternum area.  I agree that doctors are somewhat unsympathetic when you tell them how you are feeling.  Their response is "Well you had your chest opened up".  True statement but you would like to hear something more in terms of when you will feel normal again.


  • 4.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-25-2022 10:10
    Hi Billy. Sorry you have to go through all this. There's nothing easy about it. I want to give you some tips that might help ease your discomfort. Try not to use your hands much and don't lift them above your head. That gets easier with time. Keep your shoulders back and try not to slouch. That can squish the sternum and get uncomfortable. Don't cross your feet when sitting up. This makes your circulation funny. It could take you a couple months before you feel comfort. Use your pillow to stand up. Putting that pressure on your arms can cause discomfort and pain. I was given this advice after my surgery and I hope these tips help you as well. Godspeed your recovery.


    [Carrie] [Kashani]
    [White Bear Lake [MN]

  • 5.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-26-2022 03:51

    Thanks @Ira Reid @IRA NEWMAN and @Carrie Kashani! I have a follow-up with the surgeon next week and will ask about it. I've been following all the sternal restrictions very closely. 

    I forgot to mention I typically only feel this when I'm standing up. I rarely feel discomfort and pain when lying down and sitting. 

    Billy Weston

  • 6.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-26-2022 10:30
    Helloe Billy!

    I also had mitral valve repair in 2010 and I'm going to have it re repaired again next month. It sounds like it's more skelatal than having to do with the heart function. Healing can take time and 6-8 weeks is the norm. Place a call to your surgical team or cardiologist and share with them your concerns. Remember that you're surrounded by a great community and lots of support. 


    Terry Tannenbaum
    Boca Raton FL

  • 7.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-26-2022 12:47
    Billy : each of us have different post op experiences. I cant remember the details of my pain, but I can encourage you to INSIST on seeing the surgeon soon. Dont accept the runaround. You know your body, and while Your symptoms may be normal recovery ones: there could be something not quite right.
    Its better to see the doctor and find out its ok, rather than have a medical issue that is neglected.

    Marilyn B. Rosenhouse
    Mobile: (214)850-0655

  • 8.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-27-2022 12:36
    Hi Billy,  I am sorry to hear of your ongoing pain.  Everyone's recovery from open heart surgery is different but as I was leaving the hospital as well as my initial subsequent visits to my cardiologist, it was reiterated to me to keep my body in a cylinder-like form from my head to my hips.  It made everything challenging but eventually I would remember no arm movement, etc. ....just kept arms at my side for several weeks and no bending at the waist. I did bend my arms to eat but always kept my elbows close to my side.  I hope you are able to rest and heal.

    Kat Edwards

  • 9.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-27-2022 13:47
    Hi Billy. Sorry to hear you're having to deal with this. As I'm sure have already seen from the responses you've received so far, everyone's healing process is different. Almost no two are the same. I had my open heart surgery at 55 and went from being a very active, very fit person to not being able to do anything at all because I was in so much pain. I consider myself to have a high tolerance for pain but for three months after the surgery I endured the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. As a Christian, I would literally pray and ask God to either heal me or take me home because I couldn't take the pain anymore. Other people experience very little pain and have very quick recoveries. It sounds like your healing experience is somewhere in the middle between the two. Thankfully it does get better. I'm 3 1/2 years post op now and do most of the things I used to (I say "most" because my heart sustained damage from my first heart attack, a widow maker, and now pumps at only about 2/3 capacity so now I have to be careful not to push myself to hard, especially when working out in the heat). Be open and honest with your doctor about how you're feeling, both physically and mentally, because you know your body better than anyone. Don't overdo it but don't let the pain stop you from making a little progress every day.

    Brett Temple
    Project Manager
    Castleberry AL

  • 10.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 07-29-2022 06:30
    Thanks @Terry Tannenbaum, @Marilyn Rosenhouse, @Kat Edwards, @Brett Temple! Everyone has been so amazing taking the time to post about their experiences and offer advice.

    I saw my surgeon after getting a chest X-ray he ordered. He said my discomfort and pain were normal and the X-ray shows the sternum healing well.

    Billy Weston

  • 11.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 09-06-2022 11:36

    Hey Billy,  I just wanted to let you know I have had similar results as you.  I had tricuspid repair and VSD repair and I was smooth sailing easy peasy for the first several weeks and then I started cardiac rehab and started having lots of pain in the sternum area.  I wasnt sure if it was heart pain or sternum pain or both.  I am 7 weeks post op today and it is getting better and then sometimes it gets worse.

    I dont have any advice, my doctor also is not concerned and said to treat it wil NSAIDs or Tylenol as needed.  I take 200 to 400 mg Ibuprophen once per day to deal with the pain.

    Has your experience improved?

    Ronald Haggerty
    O Fallon MO

  • 12.  RE: Sternum and chest pain at 5 weeks

    Posted 09-07-2022 03:12

    Hi @Ronald Haggerty​,

    Thanks for sharing. I'n at 11 weeks now and the pain in my sternum is pretty much gone. The biggest improvement happened around week 8. I still get somewhat frequent bouts of rib cage pain though, which my GP says is costochondritis. This manifests as pain and tenderness to the touch. It happens most often when I'm sitting for long periods of time with my back against a firm couch. It used to also occur when I would lay more horizontally in bed but that doesn't happen anymore. 

    Good luck on your recovery!

    Billy Weston