What Is the Function of a Clavicle?

Reviewed on 3/19/2021
The clavicle, popularly known as the collarbone, is a part of your shoulder.
The clavicle, popularly known as the collarbone, is a part of your shoulder.

The clavicle, popularly known as the collarbone, is a part of your shoulder. It is a prominent bone that connects the arm with the rest of the skeleton. Its functions include allowing free movement of the shoulder away from the body. Along with the rib cage, the clavicle helps protect the heart from external trauma.

The clavicle is a part of two joints that make up the shoulder:

What are the conditions related to the clavicle?

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body having a wide range of motions. This unfortunately makes it prone to dislocation. The clavicle is also more likely to get fractured than many other bones of the body. A fractured clavicle is also known as a broken collarbone. The fracture most often occurs when one falls on the outstretched hand or by a direct blow to the hand. Symptoms include pain and tenderness at the clavicle and shoulder and pain and difficulty while moving the arm.

Other common conditions of the clavicle and its related joints include:

  • Acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain or separation: Injury of the ligaments holding the acromion and clavicle together can result in either AC joint sprain or separation of the joint.
  • Sternoclavicular joint sprain or dislocation: The sternoclavicular joint between the clavicle and sternum can become dislocated by injury to the front of the shoulder, causing pain and swelling around the injured area.
  • AC joint arthritis: Overuse of the shoulder joint and aging can cause degeneration of the AC joint and lead to arthritis.
  • Distal clavicle osteolysis: Also known as a weight lifter’s shoulder, the condition is most commonly seen in people who perform weight lifting. Excessive force on the clavicle causes the clavicle to break down at a faster rate (osteolysis) than it can heal and form new bone tissue.

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What is the treatment to restore the functions of the clavicle?

Conditions that affect the clavicle can cause mild to significant pain and make it difficult for you to move your arms and shoulder.

If you have clavicle pain due to a minor sprain or strain, you can apply ice packs over it for 15-20 minutes four to five times a day.

Your doctor will prescribe you anti-inflammatory medications (or painkillers) to reduce the swelling and pain related to clavicle conditions. They may inject steroid injections directly into the shoulder joint in severe cases.

Most clavicle fractures will heal well without surgery. However, surgery might reduce the time to return to strenuous activities such as sports. Your doctor may advise you to go for rehabilitation techniques such as:

  • Physical therapy: Your physical therapist will assist you with active and passive shoulder exercises that help restore the functioning of the clavicle, reduce the pain, and strengthen the muscles connected to the clavicle.
  • Immobilization: It means wearing a sling to support the shoulder joint or clavicle and to stop it from moving. This procedure is necessary to allow faster healing of the bone and correct reunion of the fractured pieces. In case of shoulder joint dislocations, you may need to wear a shoulder sling for 2-6 weeks depending upon the severity. If you have a broken collarbone, you need to wear the sling for as long as 8 weeks.

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References
Clavicle Fractures. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/92429-overview

Sternoclavicular (SC) Joint Disorders. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/sternoclavicular-sc-joint-disorders

Acromioclavicular Joint Injury. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/92337-overview

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