The sternoclavicular joint, commonly called the SC joint, is located between the breastbone (sternum) and the collarbone (clavicle). Sternoclavicular joint injuries can occur due to severe trauma or direct blows to the body as seen in motor vehicle accidents or in contact sports, where there is stretching or tearing of the supporting ligaments, and sometimes even fractures or dislocations.
Anatomy of the Sternoclavicular Joint
The shoulder consists of four joints, one of which is the sternoclavicular joint. It is an important joint as it connects the arm to the central skeleton. Similar to other joints, the SC joint is covered by articular cartilage that helps the bones slide effortlessly against each other during arm and shoulder movement. Tough connective ligaments surround the SC joint providing stability and strength and assisting in the natural motion of the arm.
Symptoms of Sternoclavicular Joint Injury
Signs and symptoms of sternoclavicular joint disorders include:
- Tenderness, bruising, or swelling over the joint
- Limited range of motion in the arm
- Grinding or crunching sound with arm movement
Diagnosis of Sternoclavicular Joint Injury
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and perform a thorough physical examination to assess range of motion of your arm, noting any pain, bruising, swelling, or redness over the joint. The pulses in your elbow and wrist are examined to ascertain good blood supply to the fingers and hand.
Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans for detailed imaging of the soft tissue structures. This can help to differentiate a sprain from a fracture or dislocation, and to confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment for Sternoclavicular Joint Injury
Non-surgical treatment includes:
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and swelling in the joint.
- Closed reduction of a dislocation
Surgical reconstruction is indicated when conservative treatment fails to alleviate symptoms, or if the joint remains unstable or dislocated. If a dislocation injury causes the clavicle to move backward against the vital structures such as the lungs, urgent medical and surgical care is necessary, as there is a risk of lung perforation or puncture.