Collar Bone Pain Physiotherapy

The collar bone is also known as the clavicle, and is a fairly common source of pain especially when it gets injured. The bone itself can be bruised or broken (fracture), or be painful due to wear and tear (arthritis), or the ligaments can be injured too.


Most clavicles are about 15 cm long, and it connects our upper arms to our body at two different, nearby joints:

  1. sternoclavicular joint (the joint between the sternum and the clavicle)
  2. acromioclavicular joint (the joint between clavicle and the acromion process of the shoulder blade)

The good news is that these joints are supported by pretty strong ligaments that hold them securely in place, together with neck and shoulder muscles that connect to the clavicle.

Broken clavicles

…are the most common source of collar bone pain. Plus point: our collarbones are the MOST common bone to break.

Good news is that clavicle fractures are usually pretty straightforward to treat and manage, and heal within 3 months most of the time.


  • direct trauma or force onto the shoulder
  • transmitted force transferred from hand/wrist to clavicle eg fall on outstretched arm, driver involved in accident


  • collar bone soreness and pain
  • deformity such as obvious discontinuation of clavicle bone
  • difficulty moving shoulder


  • most cases are non surgical, just with shoulder physiotherapy
  • severe or complex cases where bone fractures more than 3 pieces or pierces through skin may require surgery to stabilize bone

Recovery time:

  • adults typically within 6 weeks, max 12 weeks, give or take
  • children 4-8 weeks, give or take

Acromioclavicular Joint (ACJ) Ligament Injury

The acromioclavicular joint is held securely in place by 4 strong ligaments, and damage to any of these ligaments will cause collar bone pain and even instability.

Types of ligament damage includes: sprains (overstretch), partial or complete tears.


  • falling onto shoulder on the side or onto outstretched arms
  • repetitive heavy load carrying and lifting (yes, including weight lifting)


  • collar bone soreness and pain that worsens with shoulder movements, especially with resistance or load
  • decreased shoulder range of movement


  • most are treated without surgery (conservatively), wearing a sling for about 4-6 weeks together with shoulder physio
  • ligament tears may require surgery to increase stability


  • ligament healing ranges: partial tears may heal slower (>3 months) than full rupture + surgery (<3 months) because of their poor blood supply

Acromioclavicular Joint Arthritis

When there is wear, tear and degeneration of the cartilage and bones, leading to arthritis, that’d be another source of pain in the clavicle as well. With arthritis, the natural space between two bones (the joint) narrows and eventually starts to irritate and hurt each other, eventually leading to pain.

Though it’s caused by normal use, sometimes arthritis can be caused by events such as

  • infections
  • diseases
  • injuries


  • wear and tear
  • repetitive use in playing and lifting and sports
  • direct damage or disease


  • ache and pain of the collar bone
  • pain more intense when you reach across your chest


  • arthritis physiotherapy
  • shoulder physiotherapy
  • activity and lifestyle modifications
  • medicine
  • injections

In rare severe cases, patients may choose to remove a portion of the collarbone to create more space between the clavicle and acromion, followed by sling wear for 4-6 weeks and combined with shoulder physio


  • degenerative changes to cartilage and bone can’t be reversed, so what physio can do is to strengthen the shoulder muscles to offload joint pressure

Distal Clavicular Osteolysis (Weightlifters Shoulder)

Tiny micro-fractures occur in the clavicle closest to the shoulder due to repetitive forces through the bone from frequent load bearing and training. The main reason for this is because the bone does not get a chance to heal completely due to regular heavy, heavy weight lifting.

After some time, the bone gradually breaks down and is reabsorbed into the body, faster than it can be repaired. This is callsed osteolysis.


  • repetitive weight and load bearing activities where elbows are behind the body eg push ups and bench pressing


  • dull ache in collar bone
  • more painful when arm crosses chest
  • pain worsens with overhead lifting and throwing


  • usually can resolve by itself after a couple of years if patient can avoid aggravating it
  • shoulder physio to strengthen other shoulder muscles
  • injections and medication can help to manage pain

Acute Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a very rare type of collar bone pain caused by bone infection.


  • infection in bone after injury to bone
  • possible rare side effect of head and neck surgery


  • sharp pain
  • fever
  • swelling


  • antibiotics (oral, but ideally through IV drip) for 4-8 weeks without stop
  • severe cases may need surgery to remove dead or infected tissues


  • collar bone pain that’s caused by osteomyelitis can settle after 4-8 weeks of antibiotics BUTTTT it can return if patient becomes weakened due to infections or immunity issues

Sternoclavicular Joint Injury

Sternoclavicular joint is the joint between the sternum (bone at the front of the ribs) and the clavicle. It’s very rare to get injured or pain here.


  • forceful blow to the sternum, shoulder front/back or top of collarbone
  • typically caused by motor vehicle accidents or sports event


  • collar bone pain near sternum



  • will take 6-12 weeks for the ligament to recover

Where To Next?

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