The sternoclavicular joint, also referred to as the SC joint, is the joint located between the collarbone (known as the clavicle) and the breastbone (known as the sternum). The sternoclavicular joint supports the shoulders and is the main connection between the shoulder and arms, as well as the primary attachment to the main skeleton for the upper torso. Just like the other joints in the body, the sternoclavicular joint is covered with smooth, fibrous, slippery cartilage which allows the bones to move smoothly against each other. A sternoclavicular joint injury is fairly uncommon, but they can occur any time during competitive sports, traumatic accidents, and also, as the joints naturally degenerate with age. Dr. Peter Millett, orthopedic shoulder surgeon serving the greater Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado area, specializes in SC joint pain and treating an SC joint injury.

An SC joint injury is relatively uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of shoulder injuries. The low incidence of a sternoclavicular joint injury is because of the general stability of the joint due to its very strong supporting ligaments. However, it can become injured and cause SC joint pain and discomfort. Some examples of these injuries include:

Sternoclavicular Joint Injury Symptoms

SC joint pain is represented as a dull, chronic ache in the upper chest and collarbone area. This pain is often accompanied by stiffness and a sensation of instability and oftentimes spreads throughout the shoulder region. Many patients will complain of a clicking or popping sound coming from the joint, and in some cases, limited movement and limited range of motion may also be present. The severity of SC joint pain depends on the actual condition or injury that is presented. A dislocation will have these symptoms, but they will be very severe and almost unbearable for some patients, whereas a Grade I sprain may result in mild pain and tenderness. If a patient has osteoarthritis or arthritis of the sternoclavicular joint, the pain will be chronic and persistent.

Sternoclavicular Joint Injury Diagnosis

In order to diagnosis a sternoclavicular joint injury, Dr. Millett will perform a thorough examination to assess why a patient has sternoclavicular joint pain and discomfort. He will most likely order an X-ray or an MRI to confirm his diagnosis, and from there, an appropriate course of treatment will be prescribed.

Sternoclavicular Joint Injury Treatment

Treatment for a lower grade SC joint injury will typically consist of plenty of rest along with the use of pain medications and a shoulder sling. In more advanced cases, surgery will be required. There are numerous shoulder surgery techniques to treat the SC joint offered by Dr. Millett and his team, including resection arthroplasty, reduction and capsulorrhaphy and SC joint reconstruction surgery.

For more resources on an SC joint injury, or to learn more about treatment options for SC joint pain, please contact Dr. Peter Millett, orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in the Vail, Aspen and Denver, Colorado area.

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