Dislocated Collar Bone: Causes, Signs & Treatments

Also referred to as the clavicle, you can find your collarbone in the upper part of your chest. You can dislocate your collarbone – it happens where it connects to the breastbone, but sometimes, it can get dislocated where it connects to a part of the clavicle called the acromion. Something as simple as a sports injury can leave you with a dislocated collarbone. An AC joint dislocation – dislocation that involves the acromion – is much more common than an SC dislocation – dislocation that involves the sternum.

How Do You Know If You Have Dislocated Collar Bone?

You will experience a number of symptoms when you have collarbone dislocation. However, these symptoms depend on what type of fracture you have. You will experience pain, which may be more severe if you have a major dislocation.

In most cases, you will also experience swelling in the joint with a bruised look. You will not be able to move the affected shoulder – there will be excruciating pain if you try to move it. Sometimes, your injury will be severe enough to get the arm bone to come out of the shoulder socket. If this happens, you will notice your shoulder sink downward.

Common Causes of Collarbone Dislocation

You can have dislocated collar bone due to sudden fall, accident, or trauma. Some people experience these injuries more often because of their weak bone structure. It is also common for newborns to have dislocated collarbone when they pass through the process of delivery. Mothers have to apply great force to help get the baby out through the vaginal opening and this can result in collarbone dislocation in babies.

It is also quite common for children to have their collarbone dislocated during sports and games. Any direct fall on the arm or shoulder can dislocate the collarbone. Bike and car accidents are the most common causes of collarbone injuries in adults.

How Can It Be Treated?

In case of a minor dislocation, you may feel better by giving your shoulder some rest. Applying an ice pack to the affected area for the first 48-72 hours may also help reduce the pain and inflammation. You should not apply an ice pack for more than 30 minutes at a time.

You usually do not need surgery to fix your dislocated collar bone. Your doctor would avoid surgery because of so many blood vessels and nerves in this area. To avoid further damage, your doctor is likely to take more conservative treatment measures.

  • For starters, they may try to help by pushing the bone back into place. You are likely to be under anesthesia because the process involves manual manipulation of your collarbone. Once the bones are aligned, you will have to wear a clavicle brace while your collarbone continues to heal. The healing process may take up to six weeks or longer in some cases.
  • If you experience chronic instability of the joint, your doctor may think about other treatment options. They may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications in case you have developed arthritis of the joint. They usually give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. You may have to take a prescription pain reliever for some time to control your pain.
  • When nothing else works, your doctor may recommend surgery to improve your condition. This is usually the case when the collarbone is pushed inward. During surgery, your doctor will pull the clavicle out of its posterior position and apply the brace to keep it from moving. Sometimes, surgery is necessary when there is arthritis in the joint – the surgery helps repair the ligaments in this case.

What about Your Broken Collarbone?

You already know the process you will have to go through after you have a dislocated collar bone, but you may be wondering how to proceed when you have a broken collarbone.


You can get your collarbone broken after a fall. A hard blow to the shoulder may also result in the same. You will experience severe pain after you sustain the injury. You may also notice tenderness and swelling in the injured joint along with bruising to the skin. There may be bleeding as well if the bone damages the skin and tissue. Any injury to the nerves in the arm may result in numbness in the hand.

Your shoulder needs support from the collarbone to stay in place but it will slump forward or downward when there is no support coming from the clavicle. In serious injuries, it is possible to see the end of your collarbone coming out of the skin.

What to Do

You should ask someone to call the doctor or call 911 if no one is around. While waiting for help to arrive, you can do the following:

  • You should use a towel to stabilize your arm. Use it as a sling – take it under the forearm and then around your neck. Do not try to move your arm yet.
  • You should take OTC painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to help control the pain. Do not give aspirin to kids under 16.
  • You should apply an icepack to the injured area. You can simply take a bag of frozen peas, wrap it in a piece of cloth, and apply to your affected area. This will help alleviate some pain. Understand that it is not a good idea to apply ice directly to your skin because it can burn your skin.
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