Xiphoid Process Sticking Out After Pregnancy – Causes & Treatment

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The Xiphoid process sticking out after pregnancy causes pain, tightness, and pressure leading to a condition called Xiphodynia. Xiphodynia may result from traumatic experiences to the Xiphoid process, acid reflux, heart disease, weight gain, or weight lifting. All of these are common things to experience during pregnancy. After a diagnosis, pregnant women will be told not to lift heavy items, change their diet, or get it surgically removed.

Our bodies have a unique makeup with unique structures. The sternum, or breastbone, ends in a region called the Xiphoid process.

On certain occasions, like after pregnancy, the Xiphoid process might protrude. Other people develop pain in this region after strenuous activities, weight loss, or weight gain.

If you want to know why your Xiphoid process has protruded after pregnancy, keep reading this article.

Why does the Xiphoid process stick out?

The Xiphoid process of a child has cartilage formation, and this cartilage later develops into bone formation as we grow into adulthood.

Most people find the tip of the Xiphoid process to resemble a sword. Large muscles and organs near the breastbone area attach to the Xiphoid process.

Major muscles also attach to this region.

The Xiphoid process sticking out might mean inflammation of this tender region.

The resulting medical condition resulting from complications of the Xiphoid process is Xiphodynia.

Xiphodynia presents itself in the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tender Xiphoid process
  • A lump/swelling on the Xiphoid process
  • The Xiphoid process appears to stick out

What are the causes of Xiphodynia?  

In the medical profession, Xiphodynia also gets termed Xiphoid syndrome, Xiphoidalgia, and many other names.

This condition often gets missed since it may resemble other common ailments.

The most common ailments that may mimic Xiphodynia include heart disease and abdominal disorders.

These disorders present similar characteristics to Xiphodynia hence causing misdiagnosis in most patients.

What are the causes behind the Xiphoid process sticking out?

1. Mechanical injury

A mechanical injury to the Xiphoid process might cause Xiphodynia.

When you get a mechanical injury, the Xiphoid process may swell. Recurring injuries and inflammations may cause this area to appear to be sticking out.

During pregnancy, this area proves delicate. An injury that might result in it appearing to stick out after pregnancy.

When pregnant, you should report any injury on the Xiphoid process to your medical provider.

Treating the injury will prevent this condition from occurring.

2. Chest trauma

Any accident that targets the chest may cause trauma to the chest cavity, including the Xiphoid process.

The Xiphoid process might bend or break from the traumatic experience.

In some instances, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) might break or bend the Xiphoid process if done forcefully.

3. Acid reflux

A new mother

A sticking Xiphoid process could be a result of continued acid reflux.

When pregnant, acid reflux increases as the unborn baby grows in the womb pushing up the stomach.

Acid backs up on the esophagus due to increased acidity with less space in the stomach.

Since the esophagus lies below the Xiphoid process, the increased acidity irritates it. Due to this, you develop Xiphodynia.

The symptoms mask those of acid reflux if the conditions co-occur and may often cause a misdiagnosis.

After the pregnancy period ends, the Xiphoid process may be left inflamed, causing it to stick out.

Why is my Xiphoid process protruding after pregnancy?

Xiphodynia may also occur as a result of the following conditions:

Heart disease

The Xiphoid process is an anchoring point for most abdominal organs and muscles, and some heart muscles originate in this bony structure.

When the heart suffers some ailments, the effects might be felt by the neighboring organs, like the Xiphoid process, in case of inflammation.

For this reason, the Xiphoid process may appear to stick out due to swelling and pressure.

A heart condition might worsen when pregnant as the body undergoes many physical and hormonal changes.

So, if you feel that the pregnancy might stress your heart, share your concerns with the doctor.

Overeating

Overeating might result in esophagus pressure, which may affect the Xiphoid process.

Also, overeating might trigger acid reflux which also causes Xiphodynia.

Weight lifting               

Weight lifting helps build up our muscles, adding to our physic.

However, if you overdo weightlifting, you might end up developing Costochondritis.

Costochondritis occurs when the sternum gets inflamed. Since the Xiphoid process constitutes the sternum region, inflammation may lead to it appearing to stick out.

Weight gain

An obese pregnant woman has a higher chance of suffering from Xiphoid protrusion.

When you gain too much weight, especially during pregnancy, you may suffer anterior displacement on the Xiphoid process/protrusion.

Due to the pregnancy, you might not notice the protrusion, but it gets visible in the third trimester and after pregnancy.

Since the pregnancy bump has gone down, the Xiphoid process sticks out, revealing the displacement or a lump-like swelling.

How do you get Xiphodynia diagnosed?

Xiphodynia presents itself as pain in the Xiphoid process or as a tightness feeling with some pressure.

Mild symptoms may go away on their own when the cause gets eliminated.

The doctor follows through with your symptoms and checks for a lump on the breastbone area.

Chest pains or a persistent cough might also help through the diagnosis.

If you have had traumatic chest experiences, they may help you get a diagnosis for Xiphodynia.

An imaging test rules out Xiphodynia as other lumps like hernia or tumors might present similar symptoms.

If the imaging damages the Xiphoid process, you may undergo further tests like MRI and CT scans.

These advanced imaging tools help diagnose inflammations, masses, or other abnormalities on the sternum.

How to treat Xiphodynia after pregnancy?

A pregnant woman eating smaller meals with a fruit bowl to avoid extreme weight gain and treat Xiphoid process.

After the doctor finds the underlying cause for Xiphoid process pain, treating the cause helps relieve the Xiphoid process.

For recent traumas, cold and hot therapy might help in mild cases. If the trauma is major, anti-inflammatory medication helps heal the trauma.

Limiting certain strenuous activities targeting the Xiphoid process leads to a faster recovery.

So, you might not exercise or lift heavy objects until you fully recover.

For pregnant women, doctors will convey to change their eating habits with Xiphodynia caused due to acid reflux.

You will avoid trigger foods and eat smaller portions many times a day instead of one large meal.

For severe cases, surgically removing the Xiphoid process remains an option. Surgery might be the last option if the Xiphoid process has broken.

If left there, it might puncture internal organs, so surgically removing it proves essential.

Although you’ll have a wound and tenderness in the incision area, you will get well within a few weeks.

FAQs

What is it called when the Xiphoid process sticks out?     

Xiphodynia results from the Xiphoid process sticking out and causing pain.

What causes the Xiphoid process lump in adults?

A lump on the Xiphoid process may occur due to weight gain, weight lifting, overeating, heart disease, tumor, a mass, trauma, or mechanical injury.

Is the Xiphoid process harmful?

No, the Xiphoid process helps attach major organs and muscles to the sternum. Xiphodynia, on the other hand, may prove harmful to the body.

What organ is behind the Xiphoid process?

The esophagus lies behind the Xiphoid process, and the heart lies close to the Xiphoid process on the left side.

Conclusion

If your Xiphoid process sticks out after pregnancy or on any occasion, visit your doctor for a further checkup.

A diagnosis of Xiphodynia helps the doctor rule out the cause, and after treatment, you notice your Xiphoid process gets to the normal size.

In addition, not ignoring a protruding Xiphoid process saves you the risk of worsening the underlying cause.  

Nudrat Naheed
Hi, I am Nudrat, The Heart And Brain author, IR student, and painter. Writing about health fascinates me because it helps me to explore a new healthy routine and share it with others. I write primarily about general health, pregnancy, postpartum, and allergies here. If you don't find me writing, I'm busy painting or reading on global politics.
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