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Clavicle, also known as the collarbone is an important bone as it acts as the connecting link between the shoulder joint and the main central skeleton. Thus, when there is clavicle pain, it may lead to a lot of discomfort and unease. However, although the function of the clavicle is to support and connect the shoulder joint to the central skeleton, this bone has very few muscle attachments.

What May Cause the Collarbone to Pain?

Fracture of Clavicle
One of the most common causes of collarbone pain is clavicle fracture. Of all the different types of bone fractures, clavicle fracture makes up for almost 5% of them. There are many causes of clavicular fracture. An outstretched upper extremity may be a cause, as due to the stress of keeping the shoulder joint attached to the main skeleton, the clavicle may eventually give in.

A fall on the shoulder may also lead to fracture and breakage of the clavicle. Furthermore, a direct blow or any kind of direct force or trauma to the clavicle can also lead to fracture of the clavicle, thus causing pain in and areas around it.

Other Causes
An injury to the acromioclavicular joint, which leads to disjunction between the shoulder joint and the clavicle, could also cause pain. Osteolysis of the clavicle is a condition where there is active absorption of the bone, due to hyperactivity of the osteoclasts. Injuries to the chest, rotator cuff or ribs can also cause pain in the clavicle. Some bone diseases, or bursitis may also lead to pain in the collarbone. Other rare causes include sternoclavicular dislocation and degeneration of the clavicle.

Symptoms that May Accompany
  • Pain is felt, which may be aggravated on any kind of movement of the upper extremity. There may also be sharp shoulder pain experienced.
  • One of the most common symptoms accompanying pain in the collarbone is swelling. The swelling may be highly localized or slightly generalized in the neck and shoulder region.
  • Once the swelling subsides, the fracture can be felt through the skin.
  • The person may suffer from referred pain in the region, such as dull to extreme ache in and around the clavicle area, including muscle pain in the surrounding region.
  • Other systemic symptoms may also occur, such as nausea, dizziness, disturbance in vision due to pain, etc.
Treatment Measures
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. If the pain is due to fracture of the clavicle, the treatment will involve resting the affected extremity and supporting the arm with the use of a sling.

This use of a sling along with pain killers helps to allow the bone to heal itself. However in around 5-10% of the cases, surgery is employed. There is need for surgical intervention in cases where there is comminution with separation, skin penetration, shortening of the clavicle (indicative of forward shoulder), non union of bone fragments, even after several months, etc. The surgical procedure will entail open reduction internal plate fixation. In this procedure, an anatomically shaped titanium or steel plate is fixed along the superior aspect of the bone with the help of screws.

There are, however, many downsides of surgical treatment of clavicular fractures, like infection, untoward neurological symptoms, non union of bone fragments, etc. The post surgical healing will depend on many factors, such as, age of the patient, health, complexity and location of the break, severity of bone displacement, etc. For adults, it may take 20-30 days to recover from this condition. However, children and young adults may recover within 15 days. In cases where the pain is due to any other reason, the treatment will vary accordingly.

Fracture and injury of the clavicle is mostly seen in people who are actively involved in sports. Hence, in such cases, it is best to wear protective gear before venturing out, to prevent the chances of fracture and injury of the clavicle.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.