What causes sunken chest and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

A sunken chest, also known as pectus excavatum, is a condition where the breastbone and rib cage grow abnormally, causing a depression in the chest. This can lead to various physical and psychological issues for individuals affected by it. In this article, we will explore the causes of sunken chest and discuss different treatment options available.

Causes of Sunken Chest

The exact cause of sunken chest is still unknown, but several factors are believed to contribute to its development. Some of the common causes include:

  • Genetics: Sunken chest can be hereditary, meaning it can run in families. If a close family member has the condition, there is a higher chance of developing it.
  • Connective tissue disorders: Certain connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can increase the risk of developing sunken chest.
  • Rapid growth during puberty: Sunken chest often becomes more noticeable during the growth spurt that occurs in puberty. The rapid growth can exacerbate the chest deformity.
  • Abnormal cartilage growth: The abnormal growth of cartilage in the chest area can cause the breastbone to sink inward, resulting in a sunken appearance.

Treatment Options for Sunken Chest

While sunken chest cannot be completely cured without medical intervention, there are several treatment options available to improve the appearance and alleviate associated symptoms. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and individual preferences. Some of the common treatment options include:

Sunken Chest Exercises

Exercises targeting the chest muscles can help improve the appearance of a sunken chest. These exercises focus on strengthening the muscles around the chest area, which can help push the breastbone forward. Some effective exercises include:

  • Push-ups: This exercise targets the chest muscles and can help improve the overall shape of the chest.
  • Dumbbell flyes: By using dumbbells, you can specifically target the pectoral muscles and promote muscle growth.
  • Chest press: This exercise can be performed using a resistance band or a chest press machine to strengthen the chest muscles.

Sunken Chest Correction Devices

There are various devices available that can help correct the sunken chest appearance. These devices work by applying pressure to the chest area, gradually pushing the breastbone forward. Some commonly used devices include:

  • Pectus brace: This is a custom-made brace that is worn over the chest to apply constant pressure and gradually correct the sunken appearance.
  • Vacuum bell: This device creates a vacuum seal over the chest and applies external pressure to push the breastbone forward.

Sunken Chest Surgery

In severe cases of sunken chest, surgery may be recommended to correct the deformity. The most common surgical procedure for sunken chest is called the Nuss procedure. During this procedure, a curved metal bar is inserted under the sternum to push it forward and correct the sunken appearance. Surgery is usually considered as a last resort when other treatment options have failed or when the condition significantly affects the individual’s quality of life.

Sunken Chest Before and After

Before undergoing any treatment for sunken chest, it is important to have realistic expectations. While treatment options can improve the appearance of the chest, they may not completely eliminate the sunken appearance. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to understand the potential outcomes and limitations of each treatment option.

Sunken Chest Remedies

In addition to medical interventions, there are some remedies that can help alleviate symptoms associated with sunken chest. These remedies include:

  • Good posture: Maintaining a good posture can help improve the appearance of the chest and reduce discomfort.
  • Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist can help strengthen the muscles around the chest area and improve overall posture.
  • Psychological support: Sunken chest can have a significant impact on an individual’s self-esteem and body image. Seeking psychological support can help cope with the emotional challenges associated with the condition.

Sunken Chest Workout

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can help improve the appearance of a sunken chest. In addition to the exercises mentioned earlier, some other workouts that can be beneficial include:

  • Cardiovascular exercises: Engaging in activities like running, swimming, or cycling can help improve overall fitness and promote a healthy body composition.
  • Yoga or Pilates: These exercises focus on improving posture, flexibility, and core strength, which can indirectly help improve the appearance of the chest.

Sunken Chest in Adults and Children

Sunken chest can affect individuals of all ages, including both adults and children. However, the treatment options may vary depending on the age of the individual. In children, non-surgical interventions like exercises and corrective devices are often recommended to allow for natural growth and development. In adults, surgical options may be considered if the condition significantly affects their quality of life.

In conclusion, sunken chest is a condition that can have physical and psychological implications. While it cannot be completely cured, there are various treatment options available to improve the appearance and alleviate associated symptoms. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment approach based on individual circumstances.

Haroon Rashid, MD
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Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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