I see a lot of people with shoulder pain in my Ascot and Kensington clinics.  Sometimes it is the shoulder joint itself, but occasionally the culprit is not the shoulder joint at all.  The shoulder is a common place to feel pain from others areas of the body, such as the neck and thorax. In this article, I am talking about a joint where the breastbone meets the collarbone: the sternoclavicular joint.  It can be painful in and of itself, it can create collarbone pain, and it can radiate pain to the front of the shoulder.

It is a unique and fascinating joint!

Where is the sternoclavicular joint?

The sternoclavicular joint is the joint between your collarbone and your breast bone.    Take your fingers and run them along your collarbone until you feel a bump and then you find yourself on the breast bone.  That is your sternoclavicular joint.

This joint is the ONLY place where your entire arm is actually connected to the trunk of your body.  At the other end of your collarbone, you have a joint between the collarbone and the front/top of the shoulder blade, and deep inside you have the ball and socket joint of the shoulder – but all of the attachments of your whole arm to the rest of your body – except for this joint – are soft tissues.  There is only one bony joint and this is it!

What causes collarbone pain?

Despite it’s importance to your body, it’s a relatively rare cause of pain.  There can be pain at the joint itself, and it can cause pain in the shoulder and also the side of the neck and jaw.  It can be painful with movements of the arm and shoulder – especially across the body – and it can also get swollen.  Sometimes people can have a bit of clicking or crunching in the joint too.

Osteoarthritis is the most common problem in this joint. It is also a spot where there can be a variety of bony (as opposed to joint) problems – especially in younger people.  These are rare conditions (in an already rare spot for pain) – however, management and prognosis will be very different than someone who has arthritis.  Costochondritis and Tietze’s also can cause pain and swelling near the sternoclavicular joints but also tends to affect the rib joints as well.

Inflammatory conditions that affect the body as a whole, such as infections, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or spondyloarthropathy can also cause pain in the sternoclavicular joint.

This part of the body and this joint tends is often associated with some nasty conditions that definitely need medical management. In the case of this particular joint I’m a fan of Xray imaging to rule those things out before beginning treatment and rehabilitation.

If you have any pain in this area, you should get it assessed. You can book into either of my clinics and if necessary I can arrange the correct referrals for you.