Causes of Collarbone Pain and Treatment Options

Everything you need to know about pain in the collarbone (clavicle)

Collarbone pain is usually caused by an injury, such as a fracture or joint separation. However, your collarbone (clavicle) can also hurt because of health conditions like arthritis or even certain sleeping positions.

This article goes over the common and rare causes of collarbone pain. It also covers how it can be diagnosed and treated and when you should seek medical care for a painful collarbone.

Common Causes of Collarbone Pain

Common causes of clavicle pain.

Alexandra Gordon / Verywell

The most common causes of collarbone pain are injuries (trauma) and arthritis. Sleeping in certain positions can also make your clavicle hurt.

Collar bone pain can feel tender, achy, or throbbing. It may come on suddenly or develop slowly over time.

The causes of collarbone pain can be:

  • Traumatic: Usually cause sudden, severe pain that's felt at the moment you get injured
  • Non-traumatic: Tend to come on gradually and may not hurt much (unless you try to move your arm or shoulder)

Fractured Collarbone

You can end up with a broken clavicle (collarbone fracture) if you fall and land on your arm or shoulder. It can also happen if you get into an accident, like a car crash.

Broken collarbones can cause:

  • Intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty moving your arm

Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Separation

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a piece of flexible tissue (cartilage) that connects the collarbone to the triangular bone on the back of the shoulder (scapula).

A direct impact to the shoulder or the arm can separate the collarbone. This injury affects the scapula at the AC joint. It can cause pain, tenderness, and trouble moving your shoulder.


The sternoclavicular joint (SC joint) is located between the breastbone and the collarbone.

Arthritis—usually osteoarthritis—makes the cartilage that covers the SC joint wear away. It can cause pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

AC joint osteoarthritis can also cause pain in the collarbone, neck, and shoulder.

Sleeping Position

If you sleep on your side—especially on the same side all the time—it puts strain on your collarbone and shoulder.

You may just have occasional stiffness and soreness from sleeping in certain positions. However, it's also possible that sleeping on your side can lead to more serious problems, such as:

Rare Causes of Collarbone Pain

Some medical conditions and infections are less common triggers of collarbone pain.

Kehr's Sign

Kehr's sign is a pain in the left shoulder that occurs when blood from a ruptured spleen irritates the diaphragm muscle, which helps with breathing.

The phrenic nerve helps the diaphragm with breathing. When the bundle of fibers senses that the diaphragm is irritated, it transmits pain signals.

Since the nerve runs from the neck to the diaphragm, the pain can be felt in the shoulder. It may feel like an ache in the spot where the top of the shoulder meets the end of the collarbone.

What Is Referred Pain?

Referred pain occurs when you feel the pain somewhere other than where it's actually coming from.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The thoracic outlet is the area between the top rib and the bottom of the collarbone.

Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when nerves or blood vessels in this area get crushed by the collarbone, rib, or neck muscles. This can lead to:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Swelling


Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that can occur if bacteria or fungi get inside your body. For example, this could happen if you have:

  • A broken bone that pokes through your skin (compound fracture)
  • A wound near your clavicle
  • An infection in your blood (sepsis)

The symptoms of osteomyelitis may include pain, joint warmth, and swelling.

Condensing Osteitis

Condensing osteitis is a rare condition that can cause pain and swelling near the collarbone. It is not cancerous (benign) and does not spread to other areas of the body.

The condition has no known cause. The treatment usually includes antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.

How Are Collarbone Conditions Diagnosed?

To diagnose the cause of your collarbone pain, your provider will ask a lot of questions about your medical history and do a physical examination.

Your provider might order imaging tests to look at the bone more closely, such as:

Treatment of Collarbone Conditions

The treatment for collarbone pain will depend on what's causing it. In some cases, treatment can be done at home before you see your provider or go to urgent care.

At-Home Treatment and First Aid

For traumatic cases of collarbone pain—especially if you might have a broken collarbone—you will want immobilize your arm (keep it from moving). You can do this by wearing a sling while you wait for medical care.

You can make a sling from a towel, elastic bandage, or item of clothing. When you're wearing it, your arm should rest against your chest and your hand should be higher than your elbow. It shouldn't feel too loose or too tight.

If your collarbone pain is from a muscle injury or sprain, you can use the R.I.C.E. method: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

How Long to Ice?

Do not ice for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Do not place ice or gel packs directly on your skin.

Healthcare Provider Treatment

The medical treatment a provider chooses for a collarbone injury will depend on how you hurt it and how bad the injury is.

Here are a few steps your provider might take if you have collarbone pain:

  • Place your arm in a sling
  • Give you icing instructions
  • Prescribe pain medication
  • Show you exercises to do after several weeks of immobilization

If you have an infection, your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Pain in your collarbone is not always serious, but there are times when you will need to seek medical care.

Sudden, severe pain from an injury could mean the collarbone is broken or dislocated. It could also have separated from the other bones around it.

If your collarbone is hurt in an accident and you are in a lot of pain, you should go to urgent care right away.

If you hurt your collarbone and the pain is not very bad or if you have gradually started to notice symptoms, it's probably not an emergency.

That said, you should still make an appointment to see your healthcare provider.

When to Call 911

You should seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a major collarbone injury and feel confused and/or short of breath
  • You have non-traumatic collarbone pain that gets worse when you lie flat and/or you have stomach pain (possible signs of a ruptured spleen)
  • You have pain in your arms, shoulders, collarbone, neck, or back; you feel faint, and you have chest pain


Collarbone pain can be caused by injuries, infections, health conditions, and even certain sleeping positions.

There are also rare conditions—like Kehr's sign, thoracic outlet syndrome, osteomyelitis, and condensing osteitis—that can cause collarbone pain.

Treatment of your collarbone pain depends on the cause. Immobilization and pain medication are common ways to manage collarbone injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Kehr's sign?

    Kehr's sign is referred shoulder pain caused by blood seeping out of a spleen rupture. The blood irritates the diaphragm which causes the phrenic nerve to send pain signals to the shoulder.

  • Why does my collarbone hurt when I breathe?

    Pain in your collarbone when you breathe can happen if you have broken the bone. However, shortness of breath and pain can also be a sign of something more serious. You'll need to talk to your healthcare provider and figure out the cause.

  • How long does it take a broken collarbone to heal?

    A broken collarbone in an adult takes an average of 10 to 12 weeks to heal. In children and teens, it can take four to eight weeks.

  • Is collarbone pain linked to cancer?

    Collarbone pain is not usually linked to cancer, but swelling in the collarbone area can be a sign of cancer or an infection. This happens because the lymph nodes in this area can swell if an infection or cancer has spread to them.

24 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.