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What is Sternoclavicular Separation?

The sternoclavicular joint is a joint at the center of your upper chest, connecting your breastbone and collarbone, and held together by a strong band of ligaments. A sternoclavicular separation occurs when the ligaments connecting these two bones together are injured.

Causes of Sternoclavicular Separation

A sternoclavicular joint separation may be caused by:

  • A direct impact to your breastbone or collarbone.
  • A fall onto your shoulder or onto your outstretched hand, putting pressure on your collarbone
  • A contact-sport injury

Symptoms of Sternoclavicular Separation

Signs and symptoms of sternoclavicular separation include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Loss of motion
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Displacement of the collarbone

Diagnosis of sternoclavicular separation

Your doctor will review your symptoms, medical history, and perform a thorough physical examination to assess the range of motion, stability, and strength of the joint. Additional diagnostic tests may be ordered, including X-rays, MRI, and CT scans.

Treatment for Sternoclavicular Separation

Conservative treatment is usually effective, but in cases of a severely unstable joint, surgery is required. Treatment methods include:

Conservative method:

  • Medications: You will be provided with anti-inflammatory pain medications to reduce swelling.
  • Resting your joint: You will be instructed to avoid activities that provoke pain and to make use of a sling to immobilize your shoulder and arm.
  • Application of ice pack: An ice pack can be applied for 15-20 minutes,3-4 times a day, for 2-3 days after the injury to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises can be done to help strengthen the shoulder muscles.


Surgery is necessary in cases of severe instability of the joint when conservative measures are ineffective.  Your surgeon will make small incisions in the joint through which specialized instruments can be inserted to repair and reattach the torn ligaments and stabilize the bones.

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