What is the clavicle (collarbone)?
Your clavicle (collarbone) is a long, thin, slightly curved bone that connects your arm to your body. It sits below your neck and is part of the front of your shoulder. It runs horizontally (from side to side). This bone connects your sternum in the middle of your ribcage to your shoulder blade (scapula).
What are the parts of the collarbone?
The collarbone is part of the skeletal system. It is one of the main bones that makes up the shoulder.
There are two collarbones. One attaches to the left shoulder blade and the other to the right shoulder blade. Ligaments (strong bands of tissue) connect the collarbone to the shoulder blades and sternum or breastbone.
What conditions and disorders affect the collarbone?
The collarbone is a thin bone. It lies right underneath the surface of the skin, making it prone to fractures and injuries.
Types of collarbone injuries include:
- Clavicle fracture or broken collarbone may break in one place or several places (comminuted fracture). A displaced collarbone fracture happens when the ends of the broken bones don’t line up.
- Dislocated shoulder occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) pops out of the shoulder blade socket. A partial dislocation means part of the humerus remains in the socket. A complete dislocation means the humerus is completely out of the socket.
- Separated shoulder occurs when you have a tear in the ligament connecting the collarbone and shoulder blade. The collarbone and shoulder blade separate from each other. A separated shoulder is damage to the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint). The AC joint is where the top point of the shoulder blade and the collarbone meet. A shoulder separation can put the collarbone out of alignment. It causes pain and a bump underneath the skin.
What causes collarbone injuries?
Many things can lead to a collarbone injury, including:
- Blows to the shoulder from contact sports like football or hockey.
- Falling on an outstretched hand or onto the shoulder.
- Falling while doing physical activities like skiing or biking.
- Traumas like car accidents.
Babies may get a collarbone fracture or injury during a difficult childbirth. This injury is more likely if the:
- Baby is large.
- Birth canal is narrow.
- Baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal.
- Delivery requires the use of forceps or other tools.
What causes collarbone pain?
Collarbone pain can result from:
How common are collarbone injuries?
Broken collarbones are a common broken bone injury in adults. A clavicle fracture accounts for about 5% of all adult fractures, or 1 in 20.
Who is most at risk for a collarbone injury?
Anyone can experience a collarbone injury. Active children, teens and young adults or 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 collarbones.
How can I protect my collarbone?
These steps can keep your collarbone 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, removing tripping hazards like rugs and installing good lighting.
- Quit smoking and cut back on alcohol.
- Wear protective gear when participating in contact sports and physical activities like biking.
When should I talk to a doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you:
- Can’t lift your arm or grasp items.
- Have an injury or pain that indicates a possible clavicle fracture or shoulder dislocation or separation.
- Notice a lump or bump in the collarbone area.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your collarbone 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 collarbone can cause a fracture or dislocation. See your healthcare provider if you have an injury or experience pain in the collarbone area. Collarbone injuries generally heal with proper treatment.
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