Swollen collarbone causes and relief
A swollen collarbone is a common injury that can happen to anyone. It usually occurs when the soft tissue around your shoulder blades becomes inflamed, bruised, or fighting infection. It causes pain in the upper chest area of your body just to the left or right of the neck. Luckily, there are ways you can relieve this pain and get back to living everyday life. Keep reading to learn more!
The Collar Bone
The collarbone, officially known as the clavicle, is a bone that runs from your sternum (breastbone) to the top of the shoulder. It's connected at each end by joints called acromioclavicular and coracoclavicular joints, respectively, which are supported by ligaments as well.
Your collar bone starts below the neck and runs up to the top of your shoulder. If you run your hand up above the pectoral muscle, you will come in contact with the clavicle bone and feel each joint it is connected to.
The collar bone helps protect vital organs in its vicinities, such as the lungs and heart, and supporting the shoulder and arm.
What causes a swollen collarbone
A swollen clavicle has two main reasons for occurring—trauma to the bone or soft tissue around the area. The second main reason is an infection around the clavicle.
When the area faces tissue damage or an infection, the body sends more blood and fluids to the tissue to help it heal, which causes the swelling of the area.
The most common cause of a swollen clavicle is trauma to the area from an impact like falling, car accident, sports injury. Sleeping incorrectly can cause damage to the joints surrounding the collar bone, causing swelling and other symptoms like pain, fluid build up, and discomfort.
It's common for high force impacts to fracture the clavicle. If you suspect a broken collarbone, seek medical treatment immediately from a doctor or health care professional. In extreme breaks, surgery may be required.
An infection in the surrounding soft tissues is another common cause of a swollen collarbone. This can be from an injury that causes damage to those tissues or just by way of germs entering through the skin and infecting these areas. If there are any open wounds, it makes this risk much higher as well. An infection can pose a severe threat, and you'll want to seek medical treatment right away.
Conditions that could be mistaken for a swollen clavicle
There are a few conditions and diseases that present similar symptoms to a swollen clavicle. One common one is swollen lymph nodes. There are many lymph nodes above and below the collarbone that can fill with fluid and cause swelling in the area. This can be caused by underlying conditions like lymphoma (cancer). If you have a lump, we suggest getting your lymph node checked out by a health care professional asap to get a diagnosis!
Torn muscles or ligament injuries can also cause swelling to the collarbone region.
Ways to ease swollen collarbone pain
More swelling can cause more pain and discomfort. Adequate treatment of a swollen clavicle is essential to prevent additional complications from occurring. Swelling that gets worse or does not respond to home treatments may require further medical care. If there are any signs of infection, see your doctor immediately as these infections need medicine like antibiotics to heal. If there is no permanent damage, it will take a couple of weeks to heal.
The first thing you should do when the swelling begins is to rest. You'll want to stay inactive for a while to reduce pressure on the area and allow it time to heal. The best position for you will depend upon which type of injury you have, so speak with a doctor if your clavicle is broken or fractured to get their recommendations.
If possible, try sleeping with an extra pillow under your arm that has been fluffed to help support the shoulder and take any strain off the joint.
In addition to rest, you'll want to ice the area to minimize the swelling. You can do this by taking some ice or a cold pack and wrapping it in something like a towel before placing it over your collar bone. Leave it there for about 20 minutes, remove the compress, then wait another 40-60 minutes before reapplying.
Repeat as often as needed throughout the day.
When you have given yourself adequate rest and have confirmed the clavicle is not fractured, compression is the next step in helping the swelling symptoms.
This can be done with a compression wrap or shirt. You want to create enough pressure so that the "knot" of swollen tissues is pushed toward the center of your body, away from where it is causing pain and discomfort, but not too much as this may hinder blood flow to other parts.
Since the clavicle is located above the heart by the neck, elevating it is as simple as sitting up. Elevation should be done for 15 to 30 minutes every hour.
Even though it's relatively simple, elevating with a collarbone fracture on your own can be difficult and painful. Seek help from a friend or relative to help you while you heal.
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Swollen clavicles can be pretty painful, but with some quick action, the symptoms can be reduced. Impact on the collarbone is the most common cause of the swelling. You'll want to make sure the injury is not a fractured clavicle, and if you suspect it is, to get treatment right away. In some cases, a broken collarbone will need to be treated with surgery to help stabilize the bone and joint.
Swelling can also be an infection related to an injury or surface wound on your skin. If the fluid continues to build up above your chest, you'll need to seek out medical attention immediately.
Once you determine the injury is not severe, start the R.I.C.E. protocol to help reduce swelling and encourage healing.