Have you ever felt a collarbone pain that just wasn’t going away? Did the pain remain on the right side of the collarbone or it spread to the left side also? How about the pain radiating to the jaw, neck, chest, back and upper arm? Well, these symptoms could mean something really dangerous and deeper than the collars where the pain seems to emanate from. Several times a lot of people have had to battle with pains they never could explain what they stood for.
If you have ever had such terrible experience, it is possible you have had a mild heart attack, angina pain, cancer of the bone, or any other deep-rooted medical problem. But not to worry! In this post, we shall teach you what collarbone pain stands for and how you can prevent it or treat it if it occurs.
The collarbones otherwise known as the clavicles are a pair or bones that run on both sides of the upper thoracic region (around the area where you have the collars of your shirt). They run from the shoulder blade (scapula) to join with the rib cage in front, usually above the sternum bone. They play a role in supporting the upper arms. This is why any injury to the collarbone could weaken the arms and make them unable to lift any weight.
Signs and Symptoms of Collarbone pain
Collarbone pain comes with some signs and symptoms that you need to familiarize yourself with. So, what are those signs?
- Pain in the collarbone
- Pain gets worse with movement
- Pain increases when the clavicle is touched
- Difficulty in moving the shoulder
- Grating sound upon moving the shoulder or upper arm
- There is sagging of the shoulder
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the shoulder
- Pain when running as the hands responds to the pull of gravity.
What Causes Collarbone Pain?
Collarbone pain is caused by different problems. Apart from injury, other factors could be responsible for the pain. Until investigations are done, one may not be able to make a proper diagnosis except where the cause is obvious. So, here are a few causes of collarbone pain you should know about.
Injury to the bone
The primary reason why there is collarbone pain is because of an injury to the bone. This may not necessarily be a fracture, but any high impact can bring about the pain. The injury could come from a blow to the collar area, a fall while running, etc. In this case, the pain may last for a few days and go off.
Fracture of the collarbone would produce about the worst pain you have ever known in your life. This is because of the breakage of the pain, injury to surrounding tissues and nerves, pressure from the swelling that occurs, etc. The ends of the broken bones could also be piercing the surrounding tissues leading to constant and sharp pain. Fracture of the clavicle can lead to pain when breathing in (if the broken bones pierce the lungs), or when the arms are moved or even at rest.
Injury to the Acromioclavicular ligament
This can really be nasty and could become a lifelong problem if not properly treated. This is so because ligaments do not have a blood supply, and when they are injured, it takes a fairly long time for them to heal. Lifting or even sustaining the arms in a raised position becomes a major challenge. You need to rest the shoulders and arms for this injury to gradually heal. The collarbone could still hurt even when there is no injury. In that case, you need to look at other possible causes.
Cancer of the bone (osteosarcoma) can be the source of the collarbone pain as the spreading bone cancer mounts pressure on nerves, surrounding tissues, and blood vessels.
Arthritis (inflammation of the joints) can also occur on the joints of the clavicles thereby leading to severe bone pain. The particular arthritis that has a widespread effect on bones of the different parts of the body is the Rheumatoid arthritis.
Repeated infection of any wound on the clavicular area could result in the chronic infection of the bone (Osteomyelitis). This is difficult to cure in a lot of cases.
Dislocation of the Sternoclavicular joint
The joint between the sternum and the clavicles can be dislocated during a body contact game like Rugby, football, wrestling, etc. This also produces a severe pain.
One of the signs of a heart attack is pain that spreads from the chest area to the shoulders, collarbones, jaw, back, etc. So, when next you have an unexplainable pain over the collarbone, it could just be a sign of a heart attack. In that case, you need to see the doctor immediately.
This is an inflammation of the bursa that cushions the joint of the shoulder. With the inflammation, the fluid gradually dries up thereby causing friction of the joint with each movement. The friction produced leads to shoulder and joint pain around the collarbone. This can make difficult for you to do some sports like swimming, weight lifting, tennis, etc.
Adhesive capsulitis, as the name is often referred to, is an inflammatory condition that is distinguished by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The onset of the signs and symptoms is usually slow but become worse as time progresses. The condition can be triggered by any medical condition that makes it difficult for you to move your arm. Such conditions or procedures include a stroke or mastectomy.
The cervical rib otherwise known as the “Neck Ribs” is an extra rib that originates from the seventh cervical vertebra. It is a congenital abnormality that occurs in 0.6% to 0.8% of the populace. Cervical ribs may occur on the right side or on the left side or both. They usually do not cause any symptoms. But in a few cases, they may mount pressure on nerves thereby producing pains.
Rotator cuff disorder
Rotator cuff disorder otherwise known as rotator cuff tendinitis (tendonitis) results from the inflammation of the tendons and muscles that assist in the movement of the shoulder. The condition is common in people who are involved in sports that require the frequent extension of the arm over the head, such as swimmers, pitchers, and tennis players. When the tendons and muscles are inflamed, pain can be felt in the collarbone. A lot of people with this condition can regain the full use of their shoulders after proper treatment, without experiencing further pains.
This is a disorder that is characterized by extensive musculoskeletal pain which comes with fatigue, memory, mood and sleep problems. It is believed that the condition amplifies painful sensations by interfering with the way your brain interprets or processes pain signals. Most times, the symptoms are triggered by trauma, infection, psychological stress, or surgery. In some cases, however, symptoms accumulate gradually with time and are not traceable to any triggering factor. Women are more prone to this problem than men. Fibromyalgia has no cure, but a combination of some drugs can help relieve the symptoms. Other measures that can also assist in reducing symptoms include exercise, stress reduction measures, and relaxation.
Gallbladder surgery has been known to produce some pains in the abdomen as well as the site of incision and the shoulder. This pain occurs within a few days of the surgery. The shoulder pain is usually as a result of gas in the abdomen during the surgery. It goes off within 2 to 3 days. If pain persists, a few painkillers would get it resolved.
Collarbone Pain Treatment
Whatever be the cause, pain in the collarbone requires an urgent attention in order to rule out other potentially life-threatening conditions as well as to prevent any form of complication that should otherwise result from neglecting the early management. So, how should we handle collarbone pains? Here are some practical ways to take care of the collarbone pain and get some relief for yourself.
Use a figure of 8 bandages or clavicle brace
If it is a simple fracture of the collarbone, a figure of 8 bandages or a clavicle brace should be able to handle the situation without the need for surgery so long as you do not disturb the arm unnecessarily. The bandage or brace is applied by a nurse, trained first aider or one who has basic experience in handling medical emergencies. The bandage, when applied, will help to pull the shoulders behind, thereby stretching the entire length of the clavicle and assisting in aligning the broken edges of the bones automatically. The fracture will usually heal in about 4 to 6 weeks. A repeat x-ray after 2 weeks of the injury is advised so as to be sure that the ends of the broken bones have not been displaced. You will need to go through a physical therapy in order to prevent stiffness of the elbow and shrinking of the muscles.
Apply ice pack
Apply ice packs for about 20 minutes in each hour for the first day. Continue this for another 2 – 3 days for 20 minutes in every 3 – 4 hours. This will help to reduce inflammatory response, swelling and pain. Applying ice pack in the first few days works better in relieving pain and swelling than using a hot compress.
If the pain has been caused by a compound fracture, make sure that an infection does not set into the open wound. You should see a doctor who should place you on i.v infusion of some antibiotics to at least cover the first one week after the injury, then followed by a regular treatment with antibiotics for a couple of weeks. In this case, it is easier to manage the wound when there are no infections.
Apply a sling
If there are mild sprains and there are no real injuries to the acromioclavicular ligament, applying a sling can help the sprain to heal within 2 to 3 weeks. Normal activities should be resumed within a short time after recovery from the injury.
You may take painkillers which you can easily obtain over the counter. You need to control the pain that comes with this condition, whether there is or there is no injury. The Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs are quite suitable for the control of the pains and inflammation. These drugs need to be used with care and under the supervision of a medical doctor because of their ability to cause bleeding when used within the first 24 hours of the injury or cause peptic ulceration when used for a long time.
See the doctor
It is good to see the doctor who will help to investigate the cause of the collarbone pain and especially if it hurts to breath. This could be a warning that there might have been an injury to the lung from a broken piece of bone (if there is a fracture). The doctor would most likely ask for an x-ray of the affected area.
If the pain is caused by rotator cuff disorder, it can be managed by the use of steroid injections. When the condition is not being managed by more conservative treatment, you may be placed on steroid injection by your doctor. The steroid is injected right into the tendon to help minimize the inflammation and consequently reducing the pain.
Home remedies for Collarbone Pain
There are a few home remedies that can help you take care of your shoulders and collarbones thereby reducing the pain you are experiencing. These steps can also go a long way in helping to prevent the occurrence of the pain in the first place.
- Stop lifting your hand over the head repeatedly
- Do not sleep on the same side every night
- Avoid lifting a heavy object or bag on only one shoulder
- Use good posture each time you sit down
- Carry things or objects close to the body when lifting
- Take some breaks from repetitive activities
- Avoid regular and vigorous push ups
- Avoid the narrow grips during bench press; instead, use the wide grip as it hardly causes pain on the collarbone. If the pressure on the shoulder joint is continued for a long time, degenerative arthritis of the acromioclavicular joint, as well as a chronic pain in the shoulders, could result.
Collarbone Pain Because of Bench Press
The shoulder comprises of three important joints which are the acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular, and the glenohumeral joints. The clavicle (collarbone) is a major part of these joints. The joints provide movement when doing a bench press, which helps to provide strength for your chest, triceps muscles and shoulders. During a bench press, you could mount so much pressure on the clavicle and other areas of the shoulder joint as you round your shoulders or keep your hands too close together.
Different gripping methods are adopted during a bench press – narrow grip, and wide grip. The narrow grip is particularly responsible for causing shoulder and joint pain during a bench press. It is therefore advised to avoid using the narrow grip in order to minimize the occurrence of collarbone pain.
Collarbone Pain and Thyroid disease
The thyroid gland is situated in the neck and remains symptom-less when there is no issue with it. But when there is goiter or hyperthyroidism, the activities of the gland increases and the gland also grows in length and size. The growth is usually downwards. This growth then begins to mount excessive pressure on the neck and the clavicle, leading to collarbone pain and pain near shoulder.
Collarbone Pain from Sleeping
Did you just wake up and can’t lift arm anymore? Sometimes it happens that when you wake up from sleeping, you suddenly realize that your collarbone hurts. You have no injury history and can’t remember having knocked your shoulder or collar before going to bed. The reason for the collarbone pain is simple. Your sleeping position has been the cause. You have been sleeping on one side of your body for a long time. The weight of your body has gradually been mounting pressure on that side of the body. Now the body is reacting to the cumulated effect of the pressure. It is advisable to change your sleeping position from time to time. This will help to distribute your body weight equally and reduce pain.
Collarbone pain is caused by a lot of conditions. But you can avoid collarbone pain if you follow the suggestions we made in this post. Whereby it is impossible to prevent and you already have one, you can as well relieve the pains and distress that come with collarbone pain. All you need to do is to follow the simple action steps listed in the treatment and home remedies sections respectively.
Have you ever suffered from a collarbone pain? What was responsible for the pain and how did you handle it? Please, share your experience with us here, using our comment box below.