Thoracic (chest) injuries occur most often among athletes who play contact sport such as rugby or football, but anyone can suffer from a thoracic injury as a result of exercise or some other type of trauma. Thoracic pain or evidence of thoracic injury should not be ignored as the thoracic or chest cavity contains important respiratory organs which can be easily compromised.
Thoracic pain can result from poor posture, which puts the thoracic spine in misalignment, causing a hyperkyphosis (an exaggerated curve of the upper back). Slouching during sitting or even extended periods of sitting can lead to headaches and neck pain. Even athletes are guilty of spending time slouched over a computer or video game. Cyclists are particularly at risk because of their sporting posture. This hyperkyphosis can also affect the lumbar spine causing it to lose its natural curve, resulting in low back pain. It can also affect respiration (breathing) patterns.
Rib fractures are another type of thoracic injury that are frequently seen in athletes who play contact sport. Symptoms are pain and swelling at a particular area of the rib, or chest pain when you breathe in deeply, cough or sneeze. For this injury the athlete should rest, however if it is severe, you should seek medical attention. A flail chest may result from a rib fracture. This type of injury is described as at least two fractures on one or two ribs, with one segment breaking free, and becoming separated from the chest wall. This segment cannot contribute to lung expansion and breathing is compromised. This type of thoracic injury calls for surgery and physiotherapy to prevent the development of pneumonia.
Thoracic spinal cord injury may result from a fall, sports injury or motor vehicle accident. It may cause loss of motor or sensory function in the legs and hips. One side of the body may function better than the other. Surgery will be required to decompress the spinal cord which may have become compressed as a result of the accident. Physiotherapy follows to work on restoring gait functions, strength and endurance to lower limbs. With proper medical care and physiotherapy, substantial recovery can take place in people with thoracic injury.
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