We have all heard of spinal pain, shoulder pain, and honestly, what not. Ever heard of collarbone pain? It is very common in athletes, especially hockey and football players who land up with injuries in their collarbone.
Did you know, collarbone is also called “clavicle”. And what is the source of the name “clavicle”? The Latin name Clavicula (or little key) because the bone rotates along its axis like a key.
Anatomy of Collarbone
What is a Collarbone (or clavicle)?
It is a long bone which serves as a structural component between the shoulder blade and the breastbone (or sternum).
How many clavicles are there? Two of them: one on the left and the other on the right. You can say, the clavicle is the only long bone in the body which lies horizontally. With the shoulder blade, it makes up the shoulder girdle.
In fact, the collarbone can be clearly spotted and located in the human neck. It is visible because it creates a bulge in the skin.
Here are the main factors for pain in collarbone:
1. Distal clavicular osteolysis:
Traumas to the collarbone joint can cause distal clavicular osteolysis (DCO). The result? Inflammation and pain in the shoulder joints.
In fact, DCO is commonly seen in weightlifters (that is why called “weightlifter’s shoulder”). How so? Because heavy weights when lifted lead to scar tissue formation in the acromioclavicular region (joint at the top of the shoulder). Expect great pain in the shoulder and restricted movement of your arms when DCO strikes.
2. Collarbone fractures:
Broken clavicle can be a common cause of pain in your shoulder region. This can happen when you get a direct blow to your shoulder or upper arm.
So, if you have had vehicular accident, or had a sports injury, then the fallout is fractured or broken collarbone.
3. Acromioclavicular joint injuries:
Injuries to Acromioclavicular joint can cause unwanted and immediate pain, swelling, and displacement of the clavicle.
4. Osteoarthritis of the acromioclavicular joint:
Osteoarthritis can be the cause of the pain in the AC joint where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. When the cartilage in the joints wears down, this becomes the cause of the pain.
The clavicle is a rare site to get affected by bone tumors (as per Orthopedic publication from June 2010) as compared to the majority of complaints received on arthritis of the clavicular joints, ligamentous injuries, and fractures of the clavicle.
6. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome:
Now, where is the thoracic outlet found? It is the space between your top rib and your collarbone. Since this space has plenty of nerves, muscles, and blood vessels, any kind of pressure on these three can cause pain in your upper chest and along the length of your shoulder.
Slept in the wrong position? You could wake up with irritation in your lower neck and collarbone area.
Did you experience a sudden blow or fall? It can cause injury to the collarbone thereby causing fracture. Trauma mostly takes place during a road accident or fall.
9. Muscle strain:
Though the bone itself is neither diseased nor injured, muscles that are attached to the clavicle can turn out to be the root cause of collarbone pain.
10. Joint inflammation:
The collarbone has many joints (this includes shoulder blade and sternum). If there is any problem in these joints, then it can cause collarbone pain.
11. Sternoclavicular joint dislocation:
It is a less common cause of Collarbone Pain. But sternoclavicular dislocations make up for 3% of all shoulder girdle injuries.
This is more of “psychiatric” illness. Though some people think that Fibromyalgia and collarbone pain are related but the evidence is insufficient to prove this claim.
One reason for your collarbone could be ‘bursitis’. Many joints in the human body contain bursae (which are small fluid-filled sacs) whose job is to minimize friction and enhance movement. According to Orthopedists, when bursae are used frequently under excessive pressure (e.g. in sports activities) they can become inflamed and swollen.
Any clue on the signs of broken collarbone?? Read below:
- When motion becomes limited in such a way it hurts to move your shoulders and arms.
- Shoulder slump at the site of the break.
- Bulging and bruising of the skin.
- The sound of a “grinding” feeling. No, this sound doesn’t mean the actual bone is grinding against anything, but it’s an indication that air has entered the area.
- A sharp pain (and sudden one) when the break happens.
- Constant ache which continues after the initial break.
Complications of Collarbone Pain
Whether it is fracture or ligament injury of the collarbone, leaving it untreated can lead to long-standing pain at the shoulder or the injury site.
The trouble is – the edges of the fracture can keep irritating the overlying skin. In the process, it can cause “non-healing” ulcers over the bone. Though injuries of the collarbone heal by themselves over a period of time (without creating complications), they can lead to the following when they occur:
- A lump in the bone: Which usually fades with time, but can become permanent and visible.
- Delay in healing: Some injuries (any type of injury for that matter) take longer to heal.
- Osteoarthritis: A break in the bone can in all probability lead to arthritis.
- Injury to the nerves and blood vessels: The ends of a broken collarbone can injure nearby blood vessels and nerves.
Home Remedies for Collarbone Pain
Speedy healing is needed to tackle collarbone pain. Don’t worry. Natural homemade remedies are there and how:
1. Drink Herbal Tea:
Consume comfrey and willow tea few times in a day. While comfrey tea is of good help in healing bones and tissues; willow tea (aspirin is derived from it), helps in relieving pain.
2. Apply Arnica Gel:
Did you know Arnica has been used for centuries in healing bruises and inflammation, and easing joint and muscle pain? Apply Arnica gel to the injured area few times a day to get relief.
3. Apply Ice:
Down with clavicle pain and swelling? Ice application is helpful in reducing the collarbone pain.
4. Eat a Calcium-Rich Diet:
Calcium (you know the source – milk and dairy products) is vital for developing and maintaining strong bones. It’s not something that we have read in the school but it is true.
5. Moist heat:
If you have continued collarbone pain, or suffer from painful condition like osteoarthritis, then applying moist heat can reduce discomfort and pain from the inflamed joints.
6. Cayenne pepper warming oil:
The anti-inflammatory ‘capsaicin’ found in Cayenne pepper can help reduce inflammation and ease out the pain in sore joints.
Ginger is a good natural remedy to reduce pain and inflammation in joints.
8. Physical therapy:
Doctors advise physical therapy in most cases of collarbone injury and pain. The background? To ease the collarbone pain and amp up movement in the shoulder and arm.
Tips to Prevent Collarbone Pain
While the pain in collarbone is healing and reducing, you need to take steps to try and prevent the pain from getting worse.
- Avoid putting strain or pressure on your arm as it can worsen the pain
- Lay on your back. It will help remove pressure and strain from your shoulders.
- Maintain a good posture when you are walking, standing, or sitting.
- Schedule your daily activities in such a way so as to give your collarbone enough time to heal.
When to Consult a Doctor
Ideally you should see a doctor if:
- Your shoulder pain is very bad and unbearable
- If it does not settle within a few weeks
- Or if it was caused by an injury
When the cause of your shoulder pain gets identified, further treatments – either physiotherapy or a steroid injection in your shoulder may be needed.
Collarbone Pain: Aftercare
To heal from the pain, you need to stick to an aftercare program. Here are some tips:
- Keep following the medication (however strict it might be) prescribed by your doctor.
- Try to limit your physical activity, especially lifting and twisting things.
- Rest, rest, rest.
- Keep using ice (depending on the severity of collarbone pain) in order to keep the swelling down.
- Abstain from consuming Ibuprofen for the first 24 hours after your injury (as they promote more bleeding).
- Chances are you might experience pain in collarbone from sleeping. So rest on your back for the first week.
I do hope you found this blog on collarbone pain informative, helpful and effective. Do write your comments, replies and experiences (if any).