The bone that links the shoulder joint to the main central skeleton is called the clavicle and is sometimes referred to as the collarbone. People who are suffering from clavicle pain are likely to be in a great deal of discomfort. This bone has very few muscle attachments which is unusual for a bone that connects to the main skeleton.
What can cause pain in the collarbone?
Fracture of the Clavicle – Clavicle fracture accounts for most instances of collarbone pain. Clavicle fractures are quite common and make up almost 5% of all bone fractures. A clavicle fracture can occur for many reasons. Keeping the upper extremity outstretched for a significant amount of time can put stress on the shoulder joint and cause the clavicle to fracture.
A fracture or break of the clavicle may also be caused by a fall if the person lands on their shoulder. A blow to the clavicle or any other kind of direct force or trauma can also cause a fracture. This will lead to pain in the collarbone.
Other causes of clavicle pain – Disjunction between the shoulder joint and the clavicle would cause pain and this is likely to be caused by an injury to the acromioclavicular joint. Hyperactivity of osteoclasts causes osteolysis where there is overactive absorption of the bone — this can occur in the clavicle. Injuries to other areas of the body including the ribs, chest or rotator cuff can lead to clavicle pain. Pain in the collarbone may be caused by burstitis or some bone diseases. Degeneration of the clavicle and sternoclavicular dislocation are examples of rarer causes of clavicular pain.
Treatment for Clavicular pain
The underlying cause of the pain will be a deciding factor in which treatment to offer. If the clavicle is fractured then the affected extremity will need to be rested and the arm supported with a sling.
In most cases the bone will heal with the aid of a sling and pain killers can be taken by the patient to make them more comfortable. However, in up to 10% of all cases a surgery may be required. Surgical intervention may be needed in cases where there is non union of bone fragments and skin penetration. Internal plate fixation will be performed in surgery. The procedure will involve fixing an anatomically shaped steel or titanium plate along the superior aspect of the bone which will be held in place by screws.
There are some side effects to surgical treatment for clavicular fractures including non union of bone fragments, infection and untoward neurological symptoms. There are many factors that can affect the healing of the bone after surgery such as the complexity and location of the break, the severity of the bone displacement and the age and general health of the patient. It can take from between 20 and 30 days for adults to recover from surgery for this condition.
Injuries to the clavicle which can result in fractures are commonly seen in people who play sports. It is a good idea to wear protective gear when playing to reduce the risk of injury to the clavicle.