Your clavicle (collarbone) is a part of your skeletal system that connects your arm to your body. Ligaments connect this long, thin bone to your sternum and shoulder. Your clavicle is prone to injuries like a clavicle fracture, dislocated shoulder and separated shoulder. Falls are a top cause of clavicle injuries.


Skeleton diagram showing the clavicle (collarbone) at the base of the neck and connecting to the scapula (shoulder blade).
Your clavicle (collarbone) is at the base of your neck and connects to your shoulder blade.

What is a clavicle?

Your clavicle (collarbone) is a long, slightly curved bone that connects your arm to your body. You’ll find one on both sides of the base of your neck. The bones help keep your shoulder blade in the correct position as you move.

The word “clavicle” comes from the Latin “clavicula,” which translates to “little key.” The bone is actually shaped a bit like an old-fashioned key. And it works in much the same way. When you rotate a key, it moves the lock. Similarly, when you lift your arm, your clavicle rotates along its axis to allow movement.

Because of its location and role in shoulder movement, your clavicle bone is prone to injury. These injuries are common in contact sports, falls (especially when you put your arm out to catch yourself) and trauma like car accidents. Sometimes, babies can get a clavicle injury during birth.

What are clavicles made of?

Your clavicles are bones, and bones are made of layers of cells and proteins. They have a hard outer layer or shell, and an inner layer of spongy bone (cancellous bone) tissue.

What is its purpose?

Your clavicles are long bones that support your upper body and play an important role in how you move. They hold your shoulder in place, allowing you to transfer weight from your upper body to your head, neck, back and chest (your axial skeleton).


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Where is the clavicle located?

In an adult, each clavicle is about 6 inches long and runs along the top of your chest at the front of your shoulder. It runs horizontally (from side to side). Strong bands of tissue (ligaments) connect your sternum (breast bone) in the middle of your ribcage to your shoulder blade (scapula).

Conditions and Disorders

What are the common conditions and disorders that affect the clavicle?

Your clavicle is long and narrow. It lies right under the surface of your skin, making it prone to fractures and injuries. Active children, teens and those who play contact sports are more prone to injuries like dislocated shoulders. Adults, especially those who are older, are more prone to falls that cause broken clavicles.

Types of clavicle injuries include:

  • Clavicle fracture. Your clavicle bone breaks in one place or several places (comminuted fracture). A healthcare provider calls it a displaced clavicle fracture when the ends of the broken bones don’t line up.
  • Separated shoulder. You tear the ligament connecting your clavicle and shoulder blade, and they separate. A shoulder separation can put your clavicle out of alignment. It causes pain and a bump underneath your skin.

Other conditions that can affect your clavicle include:

Common symptoms of clavicle conditions

Pain is the most common symptom of clavicle conditions. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling.
  • Inability to lift your arm or grasp items.
  • Bruising or discoloration.
  • A lump or bump near your clavicle.

If you think you’ve broken your clavicle, go to the emergency room (ER). A healthcare provider should diagnose and treat a clavicle fracture as soon as possible to make sure it heals correctly.

How common are clavicle injuries?

A broken clavicle is a common injury in adults. It accounts for about 5% of (1 in 20) adult fractures.

Common tests to check for clavicle conditions

If you have symptoms of a clavicle injury or another clavicle condition, a healthcare provider might suggest one or more of the following imaging tests:


Common treatments for the clavicle

Treatment for clavicle pain or injury depends on what sort of problem you’re having. It might include:

  • Resting or immobilizing your shoulder to allow the bone to heal. Your healthcare provider might give you a sling.
  • Ice packs for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If you’ve fractured your clavicle, you might need surgery to get your bones back where they belong and secure them in place.


How can I protect my clavicle?

These steps can keep your clavicle and the rest of your skeletal system healthy and strong:

  • Do weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging or tennis for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Get enough vitamin D and calcium in your diet to build strong bones.
  • Lift weights or do other resistance exercises to strengthen bones.
  • Prevent falls by being cautious on stairs and removing tripping hazards.
  • Quit smoking and cut back on alcohol.
  • Wear protective gear when participating in contact sports (shoulder pads) and physical activities like biking (helmet).

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between a clavicle and collarbone?

There’s no difference between your clavicle and collarbone. It’s the same bone. Some people call it the collarbone because it’s at or near the collar of your shirt.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your clavicle plays an important role in shoulder and arm movement. Because it’s so thin and close to the skin, the collarbone is one of the most commonly fractured bones. It’s second nature to put out your hand to stop a fall. But the force on your clavicle can cause a fracture or dislocation. See your healthcare provider if you have an injury or experience pain in the collarbone area.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/13/2023.

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