Common causes of clavicle or clavicle pain are often injury-related. However, collarbone pain can also be caused by certain sleeping positions as well as certain health conditions.
Clavicle pain may be described as tender, painful, or throbbing and may occur suddenly or gradually.
This article will explain common and rare causes of clavicle pain. It will also cover when to contact your doctor, how to diagnose clavicle disease, and treatment options.
What are the common causes of collarbone pain?
Common causes of collarbone pain include trauma and arthritis. Certain sleeping positions can also cause collarbone pain.
Traumatic causes often experience sudden, severe pain immediately upon injury.
Nontraumatic causes may appear gradually and may not be painful unless you try to move your arm or shoulder.
If you fall and land on your shoulder or arm, a fractured or broken collarbone can occur. A car accident can also lead to a fractured collarbone.
A broken collarbone can cause severe pain and swelling, and make it difficult for your arm to move.
Acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation
The AC joint is the cartilage or flexible tissue that connects the clavicle to the shoulder blade. The scapula is the triangular bone at the back of the shoulder.
Injuries from a direct impact to the shoulder or arm can separate the clavicle from the scapula at the AC joint. This can lead to pain, tenderness, and difficulty with shoulder movement.
This sternoclavicular joint, or SC joint, between the sternum and clavicle.arthritis, especially Osteoarthritis, causes the cartilage covering the SC joint to wear away. This can lead to pain, stiffness and inflammation.
Osteoarthritis of the AC joint can also cause pain in the collarbone, neck, and shoulders.
If you sleep on your side, especially on the same side all the time, it can put a lot of pressure on your collarbone and shoulders. It might just make you stiff and sore, but sleeping on your side can cause:
- rotator cuff tear, the muscles around the shoulder joint
- tendonitisInflammation of the tendon, which can cause pain and difficulty moving
- nerve impingementalso known as pinched nerves, can cause pain, tenderness, and numbness around the affected area
Common causes of collarbone pain include trauma-related injuries, arthritis, and certain sleeping positions. Traumatic causes may trigger immediate pain, while nontraumatic causes may cause pain to develop over time.
What are rare causes of collarbone pain?
Rare causes of collarbone pain can be triggered by certain conditions as well as infections.
Kehr’s symptoms are left shoulder pain, which occurs when blood from a ruptured spleen irritates the diaphragm, a muscle that helps with breathing.
The phrenic nerve, which helps the diaphragm control breathing, is responsible for this. This nearby bundle of fibers senses stimuli and transmits pain signals. And because the nerves run from the neck to the diaphragm, pain can be felt in the shoulders.
More specifically, pain tends to be felt where the top of the shoulder meets the end of the collarbone.
This type of condition is described as referred pain, where pain or symptoms are felt in areas other than the actual injury or condition.
Thoracic outlet syndrome
This thoracic The outlet is the area between the upper ribs and the base of the collarbone.
Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when a nerve or blood vessel in the area is pinched by the collarbone, ribs, or neck muscles. This can cause pain, tingling, and swelling.
osteomyelitis A bone infection that can occur when bacteria or fungi enter your system. This can happen if you have a compound fracture, which is when a broken bone cuts through the skin; a wound near the collarbone; or a systemic infection such as sepsis.
Symptoms of osteomyelitis may include pain, joint warmth, and swelling.
This rare disorder with no known cause causes pain and swelling in the collarbone. It’s a benign disease, which means it doesn’t become cancerous and doesn’t spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment may include antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Rare causes of clavicle pain include conditions such as Kehr’s sign, thoracic outlet syndrome, and osteitis cohesion. Osteomyelitis, a bone infection, can also cause this type of pain.
When to see a healthcare provider
Whether you can wait to make an appointment with your doctor depends on several factors.
In the case of trauma, the most important factor is whether the pain is bearable. If you are very distressed, it is best to go to emergency care right away. Sudden, severe pain from an injury can mean a broken or dislocated collarbone, or separation from other surrounding bones.
You may choose to make an appointment with your primary care provider if the pain after the injury is tolerable, or if you experience pain gradually over time that is not due to the injury.
Call 911 if:
- you have a severe collarbone injury and feel confused and short of breath
- Non-traumatic collarbone pain can get worse when you are lying flat or with stomach pain, as this may mean your spleen has ruptured
- You feel pain in your arms, shoulders, collarbone, neck or back and feel dizzy and have chest pains
How is clavicle disease diagnosed?
To diagnose the cause of your collarbone pain, your doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination.
Next, imaging tests can be performed, including:
- X-rays, which can be used to check for fractures
- Computed tomography (CT) scan, which can be used to check for fractures and internal bleeding
- Bone scan, which can be used to check for bone damage or disease
Treatment of clavicle disease
Treatment for collarbone pain will depend on the specific cause. In some cases, treatment can be done at home before seeing a doctor or going to urgent care.
Home Therapy and First Aid
In traumatic cases of clavicle pain, especially if a clavicle fracture is suspected, the affected arm can be prevented from moving (immobilization) by placing the arm in a sling. This can be done while you wait for immediate medical attention.
Slings can be made from towels, elastic bandages, or clothing. When wearing the sling, the arm should be resting on the chest and the hand should be higher than the elbow. The harness should not feel too loose or too tight.
If your collarbone pain is caused by a muscle injury or sprain, you can use the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. When freezing, do not place ice directly on the skin for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
If you are waiting for treatment after experiencing trauma, you may need to use first aid techniques to help protect your injury from further damage and reduce pain. You can choose to make a sling and/or use the RICE method.
Healthcare Provider Treatment
Depending on the type and severity of the injury, your healthcare provider may:
- put your arm on the sling
- give you icing instructions
- give you painkillers
- Let you do arm exercises after a few weeks of fixation
Your healthcare provider may also prescribe antibiotics if you have an infection.
Clavicle pain can be caused by certain conditions, such as arthritis, as well as injuries from trauma. Sleeping in certain positions can also cause tearing and inflammation, which can lead to collarbone pain.
Certain rare conditions, such as Kehr’s sign, thoracic outlet syndrome, osteomyelitis, and osteitis cohesion, can also cause clavicle pain.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but may include immobilization and pain relievers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Kerr’s sign?
Kehr’s sign is shoulder pain caused by a ruptured spleen that leaks blood and irritates the diaphragm. Referred pain is pain felt from elsewhere at the site of injury; in this case, when the phrenic nerve recognizes stimulation of the diaphragm, it sends pain signals to the shoulder.
Why does my collarbone hurt when I breathe?
If your collarbone hurts when you breathe, it may be due to a fractured collarbone (broken collarbone). Shortness of breath can be a sign of something worse; to avoid the risk of breathing difficulties, it is best to see a healthcare provider for immediate treatment.
How long does a clavicle fracture take to heal?
In adults, clavicle fractures take an average of 10 to 12 weeks to heal. In children and adolescents, it may take four to eight weeks.
Is Clavicle Pain Linked to Cancer?
Clavicle pain isn’t always associated with cancer, but swelling in the collarbone area can be a sign of cancer or infection. This comes in the form of lymph nodes, which can swell if infection or cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.