My girlfriend was reaching over her head this morning and felt/heard a pop. All the sudden she had a sharp pain going through her chest, from her sternum to her back. She felt pressure on her lungs (on her right side) when she tried to breath. The sharp pain hurt as she stood or as she bent over. But as the day progressed, the sharp pain subsided and a dull pain continued. The pressure on her right lung continued as well, she doesn't feel like she's taking full breaths as she feels a pressure when she inhales.
Neither one of us have health insurance and she is reluctant to go to a doctor and wants to 'wait a few days' to see if it gets better but it makes me nervous. Can anyone with medical knowledge help me figure out what could have happened?
I am sorry that your girlfriend has been subjected to this pain and fright. What you describe is likely to be cause by one of two things. The first and most likely in this circumstance is what we call musculoskeletal, the result of stretching or tear of rib cartilage or ligaments between the ribs. Such can be most painful and often require days to resolve. This scenario is highly likely given the fact that the initial “sharp pain” was felt in the area of the sternum. The second is what is called a pneumothorax – leakage of air from the lung into the chest cavity with partial collapse of the lung.
The first is often accompanied by tenderness to touch, such as finger pressure. The second is not. It is not possible for me to say with any certainty what might have occurred and so I cannot advise you to not seek medical evaluation. Ideally, you should have a chest X-ray to be sure that something more serious, other than the two possibilities I have mentioned, is not the cause of your girlfriend’s sudden-onset symptoms. Your best bet for minimal expense would not be an emergency room but rather, an Urgent Care or Walk-in clinic.
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