The shoulder is the portion of the body that joins the arm to the chest and back. As the most mobile joint in the body, it has the largest range of movement and helps control the arm. Our shoulders allow us to reach overhead and in front of and behind us.
- The upper arm bone (humerus) rests in a cup-like bone called the glenoid.
- The shoulder blade (scapula) sits behind the glenoid, and the collarbone comes over the top.
- The point where all these bones come together, along with the surrounding muscles, is the shoulder.
There are several components that help stabilize the shoulder, including:
- Rotator cuff: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder. These muscles help stabilize your shoulder during activities like throwing.
- Labrum: The labrum is a thin rim of cartilage that helps secure the ball at the top of the arm bone (humeral head) in the glenoid socket. This fence-like tissue provides depth to the glenoid, helping keep the humeral head in the center of the socket.
- Shoulder capsule: The shoulder capsule is a thin sheet of connective tissue that surrounds the humeral head and attaches to the glenoid rim. There are four major ligaments in the capsule that work to keep the humeral head centered on the glenoid while making overhead motions.
- Dynamic stabilizers: Dynamic stabilizers are a group of muscles that include the rotator cuff, biceps and scapular stabilizers. These muscles move the shoulder through elevation and rotation and help the labrum and capsule stabilize the humeral head in the center of the socket. They also keep the shoulder blade moving smoothly during overhead motions. In other words, dynamic stabilizers allow you to move your arm in an overhead motion quickly, such as when you throw a ball, and keep you from dislocating your shoulder during the process.
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.
The collarbone is surrounded by several muscles and important structures. The shoulder, including the deltoid and trapezius, surround the clavicle on the outside and behind it. The important connective structures, known as the coracoid and trapezoid ligaments, attach the collarbone to the coracoid (a bone that helps stabilize the shoulder joint).
Underneath the collarbone, there are vital blood vessels that supply the rest of the upper body. The lungs are also below the collarbone.
There are several types of fractures and joint injuries that can affect shoulders and cause pain for kids and teens. Some of the common injuries we see include:
Because the collarbone (clavicle) is just below the skin’s surface, injuries are common. Fractures often occur after a fall off a bicycle or similar impact. Since the body begins to heal fractures very quickly, an orthopedic specialist should examine your child within seven days if you suspect a broken collarbone. If you allow the bone to begin healing improperly, it can create lasting problems.
How is a broken collarbone treated?
Treatment for a broken collarbone depends on the location and severity of the break. Fractures in younger children often 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. Athletes who do not require surgery will likely wear a sling to support their arm. Most collarbone injuries are treated without surgery, but sometimes surgery is needed to give the best chance for a full recovery.
Is a broken collarbone painful?
It’s common to have pain and discomfort for the first seven to 10 days after a collarbone injury.
To relieve pain, you can:
- Apply an ice pack to your child’s shoulder. Make sure it’s not too heavy, and place a towel between the skin and ice pack to avoid irritation.
- Have your child rest in an upright position (for example, in a reclining chair or propped up with multiple pillows).
- Ask your child’s doctor about over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
Will the bump on my child’s healed collarbone go away?
When a bone heals, new bone (callous) forms around the area of the break. This usually creates a bump that shrinks over time, but it will most likely always be there. Callouses rarely cause problems.
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.