Also known as clavicle, the collarbone is a very long bone which connects the torso to the arms and is situated horizontally. Located one on each side, right and left, the two collarbones can be found just above the first rib. It is easily palpable and visible in lean people who have very little fat in their body. Sometimes, the people may experience swelling and pain around the collarbone or clavicle, which may be related to various conditions or injuries. It is important to understand the causes of swollen collarbone and the symptoms and treatment of the same.
The collarbone is one of the strongest bones in the body as it bears the weight of the upper arms with help from the ligaments and muscles connected to it. The collarbone is attached to the sternum at one end while the other end is connected to the shoulder blade or scapula. It is this attachment that makes the weight-bearing function possible and gives the collarbone so much strength.
Causes of Swollen Collarbone
There are several factors which can contribute to the swelling of the collarbone and also cause pain. Injury, health issues and clavicle issues are some common causes along with many more for swollen collarbone. Let us discuss in details the major causes of swelling in the collarbone.
- Injury – Injury is one of the commonest causes of swollen collarbone. Instances like a car or motorbike accident, sports injury, blow to the shoulder or falling from a great height can result in the collarbone swelling. This can also prove to be extremely painful. The clavicle might get fractured in severe cases and the ligaments and muscles attached to it might swell up, thereby causing overall swelling of the collarbone.
- Bone Disorders – Common bone growth disorders like Paget's disease is also another important cause of swollen collarbone. This disease involves frequent breakdown of the skeletal bone, which can lead to malformation in it thereby causing swelling and pain.
- Infection – Though this is a rare cause, infection in the collarbone might occur in the surrounding tissues causing pain and swelling. In extremely rare cases, the infection starts at a distant site and reaches the collarbone via the bloodstream which is known as osteomyelitis.
- Deficiency of Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiency reduces calcium metabolism thereby deforming the ribs and the collarbone in the body. In children, the deficiency of this vitamin is known as rickets. Collarbone swelling also occurs when a patient suffers from this deficiency.
- Arthritis and Osteoarthritis – Arthritis is a condition where the joints of the body become stiff, swollen and painful and might also result in a swollen collarbone. In osteoarthritis, the joints start to wear and tear resulting in swelling of the area where the shoulder blade meets the collarbone. This result in the entire collarbone looking swollen.
- Bone Tumor – Another common cause of swollen collarbone is bone tumor, which is a serious disease and must be treated at the earliest.
- Joint Problems – If the two joints which surround the clavicle get inflamed, it can result in swelling of the entire region including the clavicle. If the joint between the shoulder blade and clavicle swells up, it is not easily visible as this area is mostly covered by muscles, but a prominent swelling can be seen if the inflammation occurs between the sternum and clavicle.
- Swelling of the Lymph Node – In many cases, the swelling is not in the clavicle itself, but in the lymph nodes which surround it from all sides. This causes the collarbone to appear swollen though there is no real swelling in it. Lymph nodes mainly swell up when the teeth, scalp or lungs catch an infection and enlarge in size. In such a case, it is imperative to treat the underlying infection which when controlled will result in the swelling getting reduced on its own.
Symptoms of Swollen Collarbone
The underlying condition or issue is signified by the swelling of the collarbone, which is one of the biggest symptoms itself. However, some of the associated symptoms of swollen collarbone which also point to a bigger health issue are mentioned below:
- Pain in the area around swelling of collarbone.
- Restricted arm and shoulder movements due to the pain and swelling.
- Numbness gets radiated from the collarbone to the arms.
- Inability to carry heavy items on the affected arm and side.
- Reddish skin which is painful to touch.
- Tenderness around the swollen area.
Treatment of Swelling of the Collarbone
The underlying cause of swollen collarbone needs to be treated effectively in order to treat the swelling of the clavicle.
Here are some of the best options for treatment for swollen collarbone.
- Any acute injury causing swelling of the collarbone must be treated with ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medicines.
- When the cause of swollen collarbone is a fractured clavicle, the best treatment is to immobilize the affected arm for a few weeks, as this will help fuse the injured bone. In many cases, the doctor makes use of a sling to immobilize the arm completely, so that it heals rapidly and effectively.
- If arthritis is the major cause for pain and swelling of the collarbone, then making use of painkillers and ice fomentation are the best treatment options as it helps reduce swelling, pain and also eases the pressure on the surrounding tissues. Some patients with swollen collarbone find a lot of relief by undergoing physiotherapy exercises, which though a time-taking process can yield excellent results in the long run.
- In case of infection in the joint, the doctor will suggest that the infected material should be drained out at the earliest as treatment for swollen collarbone. Antibiotics are administered once the infection is drained out to dry the wound and heal it completely. Testing of the aspirated fluid can give an idea of the type of infection, based on which further treatment for swelling of the collarbone can be planned.
- Radiation, chemotherapy or other types of conventional treatment options may be considered if the swelling is the result of a bone tumor. Effort is made to clear out the cancer cells at the earliest, which will automatically cause the swelling to lessen.
Swollen collarbone can be due to various causes ranging from an injury or infection to a bone tumor. Hence, it is essential to identify the underlying cause, check out all the symptoms of swelling of the collarbone and follow the most appropriate treatment option to reduce the swelling and treat the condition. It is important that you seek medical help regarding the treatment of swelling of the collarbone.