Sternoclavicular Joint Injury also known as SC Joint Sprains or a Separated Collarbone
What is a Sternoclavicular Joint Injury?
The SC joint, or sternoclavicular joint is one of the four joints that complete the shoulder. Located in the front where the collar bone meets the breastbone, at the base of the neck, this joint’s stability originates from the supporting ligaments and joint capsule. A sternoclavicular joint injury is typically caused by a direct blunt-force blow to the joint, as seen in contact sports or automobile accidents. The SC joint can also be damaged over time as the protective tissue that covers the bones wears away. A sternoclavicular joint injury is relatively uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of all shoulder girdle injuries. Shoulder specialist serving Manchester, South Windsor, Enfield, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities, Dr. James Mazzara and his orthopedic team, has extensive experience in treating SC joint injuries.
Severe and traumatic sternoclavicular joint injuries, resulting from blunt force causes the ligaments in the joint to stretch or tear (partially or completely) causing a separated collarbone. An SC joint injury is classified as anterior or posterior depending on the direction the collar bone is pushed during the injury. Injuries range from a mild strain to a complete dislocation. A sternoclavicular joint injury is graded into three types:
- Grade 1 – Mild sprain, grade one injury indicates a mild tear of the ligaments.
- Grade 2 – Grade two SC joint injuries show a tear between the collar bone and breastbone.
- Grade 3 – Grade three joint injuries indicate all of the ligaments within the SC region have suffered trauma. Often this type of sprain shows ligaments badly damaged, causing a separation of the joint.
What are the Symptoms of an SC Sprain?
A sternoclavicular joint injury or sprain will cause a sudden onset of pain in the SC joint area. Other symptoms include:
- Swelling or bruising
- Physical deformity at the front of the chest
- Pain when the arm is lifted overhead, across the body or when lifting objects.
- Cracking or popping sounds
- Difficulty swallowing and breathing – due to the displacement of the medial clavicle
- Instability in the clavicle – feeling like the clavicle is moving during different activities.
How is a Separated Collarbone Diagnosed?
Dr. Mazzara will conduct a thorough examination of the shoulder blade and collarbone. He will test for SC joint pain, tenderness and will evaluate the overall range of motion and movement in the shoulder. In more severe cases, he will be able to physically see the separated collarbone through the skin. X-rays are utilized to confirm Dr. Mazzara’s diagnosis of the separated collarbone. He may also request an MRI to see if there has been damage to the soft tissue and to take a more in-depth look at this area.