SC Joint Injury

An Overview on Sternoclavicular Joint Pain Caused by an
SC Joint Injury

Located between the clavicle (collarbone) and the sternum (breastbone), the sternoclavicular (SC) joint is a small joint in the upper body. The SC joint is quite strong and stable because of the surrounding ligaments and joint capsule. Even though the joint is strong, an SC joint injury can occur from blunt trauma or impact loading of the collarbone during a fall or automobile accident. An injury to the SC joint can range from a mild sprain to SC joint dislocation. Dr. Jervis Yau, orthopedic shoulder specialist serving the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California communities, specializes in treating symptoms associated with acute or chronic SC joint injuries.

SC Joint Injury Symptoms

SC joint injuries are characterized by severe sternoclavicular joint pain. Depending on injury severity, patients may also experience bruising, swelling, crepitus and visible deformity. In more severe cases, patients may report difficulty swallowing and breathing, as well as a sense of choking due to posterior displacement of the medial clavicle.

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SC Joint Injury Diagnosis

A thorough history and physical examination will be performed by Dr. Yau to diagnose the injury. During the physical examination, he will test the injured arm’s overall range of motion, as well as the joint’s tenderness, stability and pain. X-rays are obtained and are typically normal.  A CT or MRI scan is often performed to view the bony and soft tissue structures in greater detail to confirm SC joint injury.

SC Joint Injury Treatment

Non-Surgical

Majority of SC joint injuries are treated without surgery. Dr. Yau will prescribe rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and temporary immobilization of the affected shoulder in a sling. Physical therapy may also be initiated to restore function to the SC joint. Occasionally, a corticosteroid injection may be given into the SC joint for persistent pain.

Surgical

If a patient fails conservative treatment or have an acute posterior SC dislocation, Dr. Yau will recommend surgical treatment.  In cases of dislocation, the SC joint is placed back into its proper position under anesthesia.  If it is unstable, an open ligament repair or reconstruction may be performed.

If you are experiencing sternoclavicular joint pain and believe you have an SC joint injury, please contact the Santa Barbara, Goleta, Santa Maria and Ventura, California orthopedic office of shoulder specialist Dr. Jervis Yau.

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