Better known as the collarbone, the clavicle is the bone in your chest just below the skin that connects your breastbone to your shoulder and arm.

Clavicle anatomy

The clavicle is surrounded by several muscles and important structures. The shoulder, including the deltoid and trapezius, surround the clavicle on the outside and behind it, respectively. The important connective structures, known as the corocoid and trapezoid ligaments, attach the clavicle bone to the coracoid (a bone that helps stabilize the shoulder joint).

Underneath the clavicle there are vital blood vessels that supply the rest of the upper body. The lungs are also below the collarbone.

Clavicle injuries

As the bone is just below the skin surface, clavicle injuries are common. Fractures often occur after a fall off a bicycle or a similar impact. Since the body begins to heal fractures very quickly, an orthopaedic specialist should examine your child within seven days if you suspect a clavicle injury. If you allow the bone to begin healing improperly, it can create lasting problems.

Treatment for clavicle fractures depends on the location and severity of the break. Fractures in younger children heal in a few weeks with the use of a sling. In adolescents, if the bones are separated far from each other or are coming through the skin, your doctor may recommend surgery to bring the bones together. Most clavicle fractures are treated without surgery, but sometimes surgery is needed to give the best chance for a full recovery.

Athletes who do not require surgery will likely wear a sling to support their arm. It’s common to have pain and discomfort for the first seven to 10 days following a clavicle injury.

To relieve pain, you can:

  • Apply an ice pack to the shoulder. Make sure it's not too heavy and place a towel between the skin and ice pack to avoid irritation.
  • Rest in an upright position (for example, in a reclining chair or propped up with multiple pillows).
  • Ask your doctor about over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine.

When a bone heals, new bone (callous) forms around the area of the break. This usually creates a bump that gets smaller over time, but will most likely always be there. Callouses rarely cause problems.