Despite its relatively small size, clavicle can cause quite a bit of discomfort, and I know this all too well. Several years ago I was faced with a constant pain in the region around this bone (collarbone pain) and, I can tell you it can be a pain in the a$$.
Of course, the pain will largely depend on the type of the injury and its severity. If it is broken it will be very painful and may swell up, but in most cases, the injury is not at all severe and it will go away in a couple days.
In today`s article, we will go over the anatomy of the clavicle, main causes of collarbone pain and give you some suggestions on what you should do to reduce pain.
Anatomy And Name Origin
Clavicle (commonly known as collarbone), is a long bone located in between the sternum and scapula (shoulder blade). You noticed I said it was a long bone, even though it is only around 15 cm long, its characteristics make it a long bone by type (I will not go into details since they are not all that relevant to the topic of today`s article).
Even though the word is of Latin origin (“Clavicula“), someone may link it to the Latin word for key Clavis, saying the word Clavicula is just the diminutive of the word Clavis (“little key”), but this is incorrect.
Clavicula is actually the Latin name for tendril (a specialized stem plant use for climbing and attaching to various surfaces). The bone was apparently reminiscent of a tendril because of the way it connected the scapula to the sternum.
Even though the bone is rather a small one, it has a number of responsibilities and important functions:
- Along with the shoulder blade, it offers support to the upper limbs and allows full range of motion
- It serves as a protection to major blood vessels and nerves located in this area
- It serves as a muscle attachment
Muscles Around And Under CollarBone
Clavicle bone has a lot of muscle attachments which insert on the upper and under the surface of the bone.
Upper surface – lateral third of the upper surface of the bone is marked by impressions for the attachments of the deltoid and trapezius muscles; medial two-thirds of the bone is marked by impressions for the attachments of pectoralis major and sterno-cleido-mastoideus muscles.
Under the surface – subclavius muscle runs along the under surface of the clavicle bone along with pectoralis major.
CollarBone Pain (Clavicle Pain)
There are a number of reasons for pain around the collarbone area, in the following text, we will go over them.
Collabrone Pain Cause By A Fracture
One of the most common causes of the pain in the clavicle area is an existing fracture. A fracture can occur in many ways, falling on an outstretched hand, fall on the shoulder or a direct hit to the clavicle.
How will you know if you fractured it? Well, it`s pretty obvious that you will feel collarbone pain, a swelling will appear, followed by a limited range of motion and an increase in pain intensity when trying to move your arm.
After you have suffered a collarbone fracture, you must visit your doctor immediately. But, until you do, there are several things you can do to reduce pain:
- Rest and immobilize the shoulder joint along with your entire arm
- Apply ice pack to reduce the swelling and pain
- And use medication
- When the process of healing is complete, you might need to engage in physical therapy to regain your full range of motion.
Collarbone Pain During Or After Dips
If you`ve ever experienced collarbone pain during or after your dips routine, I want you to know that you are not the only one. In fact, most people complain about this type of pain, especially when starting out.
Then, depending on the character of the person, some may avoid the exercise completely (just like I did), some will push through the pain (and possibly injure themselves) and some will seek medical help to see what is going on.
And even though this clavicle pain is very common, not a lot of research was done to get to the bottom of it and there is surprisingly little information addressing this issue. Bearing that in mind, we`ve managed to pinpoint some of the main causes of this pain and divided them into three categories:
- Lack of proper warm-up
- Poor technique and
- A more severe injury
Let`s begin with the first one – Lack Of Proper Warm-Up
Warming up prior to physical activity is almost as important as the physical activity itself, yet most people chose to ignore it. They will often complain that they simply don`t have enough time or just don`t know how to do it. If you are one of those people, we urge you to change, since proper warm-up will not only prevent injury from happening, it will also improve the elasticity of your muscles, promote circulation and improve the range of motion.
Proper Technique And Form
Not surprisingly, when searching for the “best” dips technique you might come across not only different but actually conflicting information. And this is probably where most people get it wrong, they either adopt a poor technique or give it “their own spin” and end up with a shoulder injury.
Some also like to lean forward while descending into a dip (for the chest), but this can end badly since you will put even more pressure on the joints of the shoulder as well as the joint between the clavicle and the sternum (sternoclavicular joint). This is what caused collarbone pain for me personally. I like to keep my body straight, chin up and facing forward, elbows close to the body. When descending, I will go down until I form a 90-degree angle in the elbow. I don`t go lower than that and never work myself to exhaustion.
Note that I am not an expert in this field so it would be best to find someone who will demonstrate proper form to you.
More Severe Injuries
It is possible to develop hairline microfractures along the clavicle, which cause pain on motion. Also, a common symptom of this type of fracture is pain during push-ups.
Another common injury in this area is rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons keeping the shoulder joint stable. Injured (torn) rotator cuff will cause recurrent pain, cracking sound when moving your arm, limited mobility and weakness in the joint.
In any case, if you experience pain during or after the dip exercise, you should consult your doctor. Choosing to persist through the pain might cause you more hard than good and may even lead to injury so why risk it…
Other Causes Of Pain Around Or Under The CollarBone
As we`ve seen before, the fracture is a pretty obvious cause of collarbone pain and you don`t have to be a rocket scientist (or a doctor for that matter) to identify it. But, there are a number of other causes and conditions where pain around the clavicle is felt.
One of the more simple causes of clavicle pain is an awkward sleeping position. If you wake up and feel irritation in the lower neck area and below the collarbone, chances are you slept on your shoulder in a very awkward position, pressing your nerves and causing irritation and pain. In this case, the pain will go away on its own, so you don`t need to worry.
Tense neck muscles may also be causing problems. If you start to feel pain in your chest or collarbone pain, when breathing deeply, there is a chance your neck muscles are tight and are pressing on your throat, making it sore. If this is, indeed the case, you need to relax your muscles (you can try out these exercises – Exercises For Neck Pain Relief or visit Amazon.com and buy Penetrex, the #1 bestseller in the pain relief creams category with over 20.000 user reviews.). It could also be an infection, therefore, visiting your doctor is a must.
One of the more severe causes of clavicle area pain is arthritis. Even though clavicle is rather small, it is connected to two more bones of our body, meaning it is a part of two joints. If you`ve developed arthritis in either one of those joints, you will experience pain and discomfort which is why I, again, advise you to go see your doctor, get a thorough physical examination and get to the bottom of your pain!
Other common causes of collarbone pain are:
- Bursitis – swelling in the bursa located in this region
- Pinched nerve
- Repetitive movement
- Bone spurs
- Muscle and joint stiffness
Featured Image Source: Gray H. Upper Limb, Atlas Of Anatomy, page 354