The collarbone, or clavicle, plays a vital role within the skeletal structure of the body, forming a connection between the main part of the skeleton and the shoulder. That means that pain in the clavicle can be very uncomfortable for the sufferer. The collarbone has an important supportive function, although it doesn’t have very many muscles attached to it.
What Are Some Causes Of Clavicle Pain?
Fracture – a fracture on the collarbone is one of the most likely causes of clavicle pain. Collarbone fractures account for nearly 5% of all broken bone injuries, and can be very painful. A broken clavicle can be caused in many ways. For example, stretching out the arm in a certain way for a sustained period can put a lot of stress on the clavicle. The extra stress of supporting the connection between the skeleton and the shoulder joint can cause the clavicle to fracture.
Falling and landing on the shoulder can also cause the collarbone to break or fracture. A break can also be caused by taking a blow to the clavicle, or any other sort of trauma or force in the area, leading to collarbone pain which can radiate out to the surrounding area.
There are a few other causes of pain in the clavicle. These can include damage to the acromioclavicular joint, which means the clavicle and shoulder joint don’t join up quite right, leading to pain. Osteolysis, where the osteoclasts in the body are over active and actually absorb bone tissue can affect the clavicle and cause pain. Clavicle pain can also be caused by an injury to the ribs, rotator cuff, or the chest itself, or by bursitis or a bone disease. Some less common causes of clavicle pain include degeneration of the collarbone, or dislocation between the sternum and the clavicle.
How Is Clavicle Pain Treated?
The best way to treat clavicle pain is really decided by the cause of the pain. For example, if the clavicle is painful because of a fracture, the best treatment is to use a sling to support the arm on the affected side, and to ensure the limb gets plenty of rest.
Using painkillers in conjunction with a sling will give the collar bone a chance to heal. In some cases, estimated to be about 5 – 10%, the best solution is surgery. Surgery becomes necessary in cases where the bone penetrates the skin, the pieces of bone don’t reunite properly, the fracture is a comminuted fracture (many fragments), or the clavicle becomes shortened. In those cases, the surgery involves placing an anatomically shaped plate made of steel or titanium along the top of the bone. The steel plates are held in place with screws. This is known as internal plate fixation.
Treating a fractured clavicle with surgery does have plenty of downsides. These can include uncomfortable neurological symptoms, post-surgery infections, or a failure of the bone fragments to reunite. How well the patient will heal after surgery is dependent on several factors, including where the break is, how complicated the fracture is, how old the patient is, their general level of health, and how bad the bone displacement is. Most adults take between 20 and 30 days to heal from the surgery.
Clavicle fractures and injuries are commonly seen in patients who are active sports people. For people who enjoy sports, it’s a wise idea to invest in and wear some protective gear, to protect the clavicle and reduce the chance of injury or break in the clavicle.