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, Rocky Hill, 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.
Have you sustained a sternoclavicular joint injury?
There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Mazzara:
You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Mazzara.
You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Mazzara.
How is an SC Joint Injury Treated?
The majority of sternoclavicular joint injuries do not require surgery. Initial treatment includes ice, rest and sling mobilization. Anti-inflammatory or other medications may be prescribed. Physical therapy may be recommended, depending on the severity of the injury. A more severe injury may require manipulation, called “reduction” by Dr. Mazzara to relocate the joint back to its normal position.
Patients with severe and traumatic SC joint injuries require surgery when there is significant damage to the bones and ligaments. Dr. Mazzara will recommend the type of surgery based on the exact injury and will often suggest a stabilization procedure that will allow him to reattach torn ligaments to the SC joint. A stabilization procedure will allow the patient to recover fully, without the risk of joint dislocation, subluxation or the onset of arthritis.
Patients in the Manchester, South Windsor, Rocky Hill, Glastonbury and surrounding Hartford communities who have questions regarding sternoclavicular joint injuries or other shoulder conditions may contact the orthopedic offices of Dr. James Mazzara.