How to Treat a Dislocated Collarbone: Signs, Causes, and Types

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dislocated collarboneA dislocated bone is a common condition, particularly for those involved in contact sports. Most cases are painful and can happen suddenly with a direct blow to the area. This is the case with a collarbone dislocation. The severity of the dislocation is dependent on the force of the hit and trauma to the surrounding ligaments, muscles, and tissue. Let’s learn the important first steps in treating dislocated collarbone and what symptoms of collarbone dislocation to watch for.

The collarbone is also referred to the clavicle bone, since it stretches from the shoulders to the breastbone across the front of the body. You can trace this long, narrow bone below the neck as it forms one joint on the inner side of the sternum and on the outer side with the shoulder.

The Different Types of Collarbone Dislocation

Often the dislocation of the collarbone is placed within grade categories according to severity and the amount of damage to the surrounding tissues. Minor trauma to the ligaments causing minimal dislocation is seen with mild cases, while moderate cases deal with a more serious dislocation as the ligaments are often torn. The more severe cases see the collarbone completely dislocated.

As the collarbone connects at different points of the shoulders and breastbone, there are two major types of collarbone dislocation.

1. Shoulder Separation

A shoulder separation is the more common type of dislocated collarbone as this has the ligaments stretched at the outer end of the shoulder joint. It is also known as an acromioclavicular joint injury, or an ACJ. Mild cases see the ligaments stretched, whereas in more serious cases, they could be torn. With a separation of the shoulder, rest and ice compresses are usually the prescribed treatment, and it will heal on its own after a few weeks.

2. Sternoclavicular Joint Dislocation

When the dislocation involves the inner portion of the collarbone, it is referred to as a sternoclavicular joint dislocation, or a SC injury. This form is a rare condition where the collarbone becomes shifted in both directions. A SC injury is seen when pressure forces the shoulder back, having the collarbone turn towards the front. This type of dislocation can also happen with the shoulder being impacted from the back and forced to move forward.

Some Common Causes of Collarbone Dislocation

A dislocated clavicle is linked to an injury or trauma to the upper portion of the body involving the shoulder joint.

1. Sports Injuries

With the hard hits a player may receive with contact sports, it is no surprise that a collarbone dislocation can be a common injury in sports. This can also include high-impact sports, adventure activities, and those behaviors where falls are of a higher risk. The participant may receive a direct shoulder hit or suffer the injury as a result of a hard fall to the ground. Some of the more common sports with collarbone dislocation cases include rugby, football, skiing, hockey, rock climbing, soccer, and volleyball.

2. Accidents

A dislocated collarbone from a fall can also occur outside of sports activities. By falling from a high level or hitting the ground, or hard floor, at just the right angle, you may dislocate the collarbone. Auto and cycling accidents can also cause the collarbone to be dislocated as the shoulder or chest can be forced frontward or backward.

3. Bone Disposition

Some cases of a dislocated collarbone occur simply by having weak or frail bone structure. A quick jerk of motion can result in a form of dislocation in these cases. A collarbone injury can even happen with newborns during delivery.

Signs and Symptoms Associated with Collarbone Dislocation

Dislocated collarbone symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the dislocation and whether it directly affects the outer or inner portion of the collarbone.

  • Shoulder pain with movement
  • Bone protruding under skin
  • Severe pain of the affected region
  • Radiating pain from back to shoulders to hands
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Movement difficulty
  • Decrease in range of motion
  • Arm weakness
  • Chest pressure
  • Shortness in breath
  • Swallowing difficulty

How to Fix a Dislocated Collarbone

Fortunately, despite the severe pain a dislocated collarbone may present, most cases can be treated without the need for surgery. Your collarbone is attached to delicate ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels that can become damaged.

Treatment is commonly done by placing the collarbone back into position. Under a general anesthesia for pain, you can expect to have manual manipulation of your collarbone performed by a doctor. A brace is then used to maintain positioning of collarbone while the tissues heal. A sling may be used to prevent movement of the arm, which can affect the acromioclavicular joint. Expect up to six weeks for proper treatment.

With more severe cases and those that do not appear to heal well, a more aggressive approach may be required. These cases can lead to arthritis of the affected joint that brings along chronic pain. Pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery may help to offset the condition. Narcotics can also sometimes be used.

With surgical procedures, the collarbone may be shifted from a posterior position and kept in place with a sling. This may help with the arthritis of the joint and ligament healing. By having surgery on the joint itself, damaged ligaments may be treated or the joint can be replaced or removed.

First-Aid Tips for Dislocated Collarbone

Depending on the cause of the injury and any symptoms, the first step in treatment is to ensure there is no bleeding as a result of injuries. A dislocated collarbone can be mistaken for a fractured collarbone with similar painful symptoms in those experiencing it for the first time. Until X-ray images can confirm a diagnosis, it is best to treat all possible dislocations as a fracture. With medical treatment, you can expect to be questioned on the details of the injury and any accompanying symptoms.

Once you can focus on the dislocated collarbone:

  • Apply an ice pack for 30-minute period over the first 72 hours to reduce inflammation. This will help with pain as well.
  • Prevent movement of the collarbone and shoulder joint by use of a sling or bandage.
  • Keep record of the injury itself such as the movement, pain level, pulse rate, and any signs of shortness of breath.

A dislocated collarbone is identified by the severe pain and difficulty in moving the shoulder or arm. If you have previously had a dislocated bone, you will immediately recognize the repeat condition. Injury to the joint or tissues can be caused by an accident or a forceful hit as seen in contact sports. These incidents can also be seen with high-impact activities such as rock climbing or even with simple falls on hard surfaces. Most dislocated collarbones will heal over four to six weeks once the collarbone is returned to its proper positioning. Severe cases may require surgical procedures to be directed back into place or the affected joint may need to be removed.

Related Article:

Right Shoulder Blade Pain: Causes and Treatments

Collarbone (Clavicle) Pain

Sources :
“Collarbone Dislocation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis,” ePain Assist;, last accessed July 4, 2017.
“Dislocated Shoulder And Separated Shoulder,” Web MD;, last accessed July 4, 2017.