Sternoclavicular Joint Injury Overview
The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is a major joint of the upper body that is formed by the articulation of the collarbone (clavicle) and the center of the chest (manubrium). Most of the SC joint’s strength and stability originates from the joint capsule and supporting ligaments. An SC joint injury is often due to a direct blow or blunt force trauma that occurs to the collarbone. These injuries can also result from a traumatic landing to the shoulder area, such as in football. A sternoclavicular joint injury is typically associated with a disruption of the supporting ligaments. Austin, Round Rock, and Cedar Park, Texas communities orthopedic shoulder specialist, Dr. Jeff Padalecki, specializes in SC joint pain and treating SC joint injuries.
A sternoclavicular joint injury is relatively uncommon, but when it occurs, the affected ligaments are stretched or torn (partially or completely) causing the joint to become disrupted. An SC joint injury is graded into 3 types ranging from a first-degree injury that involves a simple sprain or stretching of the ligaments to a second-degree injury where a portion of the clavicle becomes subluxated. In the most severe cases, a third degree SC joint injury, a complete rupture typically occurs between the sternoclavicular and costoclavicular ligaments, which allows the clavicle to completely dislocate from the manubrium.
What are Examples of SC Joint Injuries?
Some examples of SC joint injuries include:
What are the Symptoms of a Sternoclavicular Joint Injury?
The most common symptoms from an SC joint injury include:
- Severe SC joint pain at or around the joint at the time of injury and afterwards
- Bruising in the area
- Difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a sense of fullness around the neck or a feeling of choking sensation due to posterior displacement of the medial clavicle
- Cracking noises and/or popping sounds
- A feeling of instability where the clavicle feels like it “moves” during activities
How are SC Joint Injuries Diagnosed?
Dr. Padalecki will conduct a thorough examination of the shoulder blade and collarbone. He will test for tenderness and SC joint pain, and evaluate the overall range of motion of the arm and shoulder. In some cases, he will be able to see if a dislocation or other major disruption has occurred, but an X-ray will usually confirm his diagnosis. Because ligaments and other soft tissue structures are typically involved with a sternoclavicular joint injury, he may also order an MRI to take a more in-depth look at this area.