ClickCease Skip to content

Sternoclavicular Joint Injury Treatment in Westminster Denver Colorado


       The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is one of the four joints that complete the shoulder. The joint is located in the spot where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the sternum (breastbone) at the base of the neck. Although not common, problems with the SC joint can arise from injury and other disorders.

       Injuries to the SC joint typically result from motor vehicle accidents or participation in collision sports like football. While these injuries can be painful, most are relatively minor and will heal well without surgery. Very rarely, a hard blow to the SC joint can damage the vital organs and tissues that lie nearby. When this occurs, it is a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention.

       The SC joint can also be damaged over time, as the protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones gradually wears away. This type of degenerative change in the joint can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced motion in the shoulder and arm.


       The sternoclavicular (SC) joint is the linkage between the clavicle (collarbone) and the sternum (breastbone). The SC joint supports the shoulder and is the only joint that connects the arm to the body.

       Like the other joints in the body, the SC joint is covered with a smooth, slippery substance called articular cartilage. This cartilage helps the bones glide easily along each other as you move your arm and shoulder. Tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments surround the SC joint, giving it strength and stability.

       Immediately behind the SC joint lie several important nerves and blood vessels, as well as other vital structures like the trachea (windpipe) and esophagus (which connects the throat to the stomach).



Injuries and osteoarthritis are the most common disorders associated with the SC joint.

       Injuries to the SC joint can range from a mild sprain, in which the surrounding ligaments are stretched (the most commonly seen injury), to a fracture of the clavicle (collarbone) itself.

       In rare cases, a strong blow to the shoulder can cause an injury in which the joint dislocates completely from its normal position. Joint dislocations are classified as either “anterior” or “posterior,” depending on the direction in which the collarbone is pushed during the injury:

       Anterior—the end of the clavicle is pushed forward, in front of the sternum (breastbone)

       Posterior—the end of the clavicle is pushed backward, behind the sternum and deep into the upper chest

Although both kinds of dislocations are serious injuries, a posterior dislocation requires more urgent medical attention. In a posterior dislocation, the vital structures behind the SC joint can be compressed, leading to life-threatening problems with breathing or blood flow.


Causes of injury

 The ligaments surrounding the SC joint are some of the strongest in the body, so it takes a great deal of force to cause an injury. Typically, injuries to the joint are caused by some type of high-impact event, such as a:

       Collision or hard fall during a contact sport like football or rugby

       Motor vehicle accident

Because of the significant force needed to cause an injury, patients may also have additional injuries to the chest, airways, and extremities. In some cases, injury to the SC joint is overlooked at first because these other injuries require urgent attention.



       Osteoarthritis is a degenerative “wear and tear” type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age or older, though it may occur in younger people, too.

       In osteoarthritis, the smooth articular cartilage that covers the SC joint gradually wears away. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. This can result in painful bone rubbing on bone and can also lead to a bony prominence around the joint.

       Osteoarthritis develops slowly and the pain and stiffness it causes worsens over time.


Other Disorders

Other disorders associated with the SC joint include:

       Inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis


In addition, some patients may experience slight movement or popping of the bone out of place even without some type of trauma. This condition is called “subluxation” and seems to be limited to those people who are considered “loose jointed.”



The most common symptom of an SC joint disorder is pain in the area where the clavicle meets the sternum. This pain will be present with a sprain but will be much sharper in the case of a fracture or dislocation—especially when you attempt to move your arm.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

       Swelling, bruising, or tenderness over the joint

       A crunching or grinding sound when you try to move your arm

       Limited range of motion in the arm

       With an inflammatory condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, you may have simultaneous pain in other joints in your body

       With a joint infection, there may be redness over the joint and you may have fever, chills, or night sweats. If you experience any of the symptoms of a joint infection, it is important to seek medical attention right away.

Physical Examination

Your doctor will talk with you about your medical history and general health and ask about your symptoms. He or she will want to know when your pain began and whether there is a history of injury or accident.

Your doctor will look for visible signs of deformity or a bump over the joint. He or she will then perform a careful examination of your shoulder area. During the exam, your doctor will:

       Look for swelling, bruising, or redness over the joint

       Assess range of motion in your arm

       Check your pulse at the wrist and elbow to ensure there is good blood flow to your hand and fingers

Imaging Studies

       X-rays. X-rays provide images of dense structures, such as bone. Your doctor will order x-rays of your chest and shoulder from a number of different angles to help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other underlying shoulder conditions.

       Computerized tomography (CT) scan. This imaging study is more detailed than a plain x-ray. Your doctor may order a CT scan to better evaluate your injury and to help differentiate a sprain from a dislocation or a fracture.

       Other imaging studies. Depending on your specific problem, your doctor may order additional imaging studies, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or bone scan.


Our expert providers are experienced and skilled at treating sternoclavicular joint injuries and are your source for expert treatment of sternoclavicular joint injuries in Westminster and Denver Colorado. Not only are we the premier treatment for spine injuries and chiropractic in Westminster and Denver Colorado, but we also specialize in many other advanced treatment techniques such as shockwave, cold laser, graston technique, KT Taping, activator, instrument aided spinal alignments, drop table, toggle, in house rehab services, and on site digital xrays. We are your Premier destination for sternoclavicular joint injury treatment in Westminster Colorado and Denver Colorado Chiropractor.