How Do I Treat a Swollen Clavicle?

The clavicle connects the shoulder to the sternum.
Applying an ice pack can help reduce the swelling and inflammation to the area.
A human skeleton, including the clavicles in red.
An arm sling may be required to treat a swollen clavicle.
Article Details
  • Written By: Rebecca Mecomber
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Treatment for a swollen clavicle depends largely on the type of injury sustained, but most swelling cab be resolved by placing an ice pack on the clavicle for several hours. Clavicle swelling might arise from various ailments, such as a fractured collarbone, cancer in the bone or in the lymph nodes above the clavicle, tuberculosis or arthritis. The most common cause of a swollen clavicle is a small breakage of the bone, which necessitates an arm sling and extended rest until the swelling is relieved and the fracture heals. Bacterial infections such as tuberculosis require antibiotics. Treatments for cancer and arthritis depend on the cause and severity of the disease.

A fractured bone is a very common clavicle injury. The clavicle is a narrow, thin bone protruding from the top of the chest between the shoulder and the neck. A patient might fall, striking the bone, or the clavicle might be struck by an object, such as a baseball. During birth, the baby's clavicle might break during its passage through the narrow birth canal. With such a clavicle injury, the baby experiences shoulder pain, and the swollen collarbone might be discolored.

Ad

The first measure of treatment for a fractured, swollen clavicle is to reduce swelling. Apply an ice pack to the clavicle area until a physician can view the area via X-ray. Surgery is rare; most fractures are treated with a "figure 8" arm sling that wraps around the shoulders. Ibuprofen or some other non-inflammatory analgesic reduces swelling and relieves pain. The swelling should resolve within 24 hours, but it might take as long as 12 weeks for the fracture to heal completely.

A swollen clavicle that was not caused by a fracture might belie a more serious problem, especially if the swelling is sustained or chronic. Enlarged lymph nodes directly above the swollen collarbone might indicate cancer or tuberculosis. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system, and they enlarge to produce more white blood cells when the body detects an infection. Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that inflicts the lungs but might settle in the bone. The disease is treated with antibiotics and bed rest.

On rare occasions, a swollen clavicle might be caused by cancer. X-rays detect the presence of a tumor, and a biopsy helps determine the form of treatment. In the early stages, the tumor might be surgically removed. Advanced stages of cancer might require surgery and chemotherapy. Swelling and discomfort caused by arthritis are relieved by an ice pack and pain medication.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

cardsfan27
Post 4

#matthewc23 - That is a very unfortunate story and I am glad to hear that he managed to recover. I have had a swollen clavicle and my arm was in a sling for a few weeks. It was not that painful, but more annoying.

When I had a swollen clavicle it was a simple break in the bone and I only needed my arm in a sling for a short time. However, this also resulted in a bruise across my back which caused people to ask questions and also meant that I could not lean back in a chair with succumbing to some discomfort.

Despite this injury, I was back from it in a few weeks and I did not experience any complications. It was an incident that probably will not happen again and was an injury I view as minor in the course of my lifetime.

matthewc23
Post 3

I have always thought that a broken clavicle was something that was of major concern to an athlete. I remember we had a quarterback at our high school that lost his range of motion due to having a broken clavicle.

Once he came back his clavicle was swollen to the point that he had to adjust his range of motion and this greatly affected his passing.

This was a very unfortunate, but he was eventually able to recover after a season and adjust. But, this goes to show that the clavicle can play major havoc with athletes, especially those that are used to throwing a ball.

JimmyT
Post 2

@jmc88 - I do not believe ice will work in all cases concerning a swollen clavicle. The clavicle itself is a very thin bone and is prone to breakage. Usually it is not hard to break this bone and have a severely swollen clavicle and when that occurs surgery for bone setting or other medical attention is necessary.

I also have a clavicle that goes out of place and there is little that can be done about it, but this is probably the least severe of the many instance that can occur concerning swollen clavicles and most of the time it is something a little more serious.

jmc88
Post 1

I always suffer from a swollen clavicle and my doctor tells me to simply ice it and it will go away after awhile. This occurs simply because it will move out of place sometimes and is quite painful when it does. Absolutely nothing seriously wrong with it and I do not need surgery, yet it is something that is ongoing and is rather easy to treat.

My suggestion when a swollen clavicle occurs is to simply ice it if it is not broken. If the area is out of place this means that it does not require treatment and will go away after awhile. It is simply something to take notice of and I would suggest not to do any heavy lifting until the pain goes away.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email