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Should I see an orthopedic specialist for SC joint separation?

Updated on June 22, 2012

Original question asked by brstilson at hubpages is: "I have recently suffered an anterior sternoclavicular dislocation (SC joint separation). My General Practitioner does not know much about it, so that is why she does not have a lot of info on SC joint separation to give me. I have checked everywhere online, but I am not able to find a situation exactly like mine. Because this SC joint separation I am talking about has not occurred because of a direct impact or accident, but it has occurred because I was stressing or overworking myself at work. I am able to pop my joint back in its original location and it is usually normal, but I am feeling some pain whenever I use that arm to do any vigorous activities. It has been three days since my clavicle has dislocated. Should I just take it easy for a few more days or go ahead and see an orthopedic specialist.”

My answer: In your situation, it is highly advised to see an orthopedic specialist in your area for good health of your shoulder and SC joint and if you want to know why then first of all, in order to tell you more about your situation, you must know what is an SC joint separation? and what are symptoms of SC joint separation and why to see a shoulder specialist. Read on…

What is a sternoclavicular joint separation and signs and symptoms of SC joint dislocation?

The clavicle or what we say in simple words, collar bone, articulates with the sternum or breastbone in the middle of the chest at the top. According to the medical literature if someone suffers a strong impact to this joint, it becomes damaged and is painful. It is also mentioned that this is a rare injury and occurs mostly in sports persons, but if it occurs and is very severe, a person has to seek immediate medical help because these bones are dangerously close to blood vessels. Some signs and symptoms of sternoclavicular joint separation are pain if you press the point where the clavicle meets the sternum and pain radiating towards the shoulder. SC joint separations occur mostly in males and less in females.

In some situations, people suffer from this injury not due to direct impact or accident or a direct blow on this area but due to overstressing the joint or working in vigorous or exertional activities such as manual labor, etc. It has also been found that in these acute SC joint separations, patients are able to pop their joint back into place on their own where it was before, but these acute separations or dislocations when not treated can convert into chronic or severe conditions necessitating surgery to repair the separation. Patients involved in vigorous occupational activities or sports athletes are much more prone to these kinds of separations such as SC joint separation or AC joint separation. So it is highly recommended to see an shoulder specialist immediately who can prescribe pain medications and anti-inflammatories and non-steroidal drugs such as ibuprofen or Advil and tell you to ice the area, and provide a physical therapy prescription for rehabilitation of SC joint separation or any sprains and strains caused by this condition.

What to do in very mild cases of SC joint separation?

For very mild cases of SC joint separation, rest is the best option because if the injury is not too serious, there is nothing else you can do. The person can return to work and athletes to sports within a few weeks but the pain may be present for a few months and same is for sportspersons and athletes.

Standard medical procedure for SC joint separations: On your visit to an orthopedic shoulder specialist, he/she will ask you:

  1. How and when your SC joint injury occurred?
  2. What is your pain level, you have to describe that on a pain diagram.
  3. Is there any history of injuries involving this area in your lifetime or not such during childhood or teenage.
  4. Determining the degree of your injury, the shoulder specialist will refer you to get a CT scan or MRI performed of the SC joint.
  5. If your reports come mild SC joint separation, your specialist will prescribe you pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, apply ice over the area, etc.
  6. If your reports show moderate SC joint separation, your orthopedic specialist will prescribe you the above medications and ice plus physical therapy for gentle rehab.
  7. If your reports are positive for severe SC joint separation, then your orthopedic specialist will ask you that you need to be hospitalized because of the risk of injury to blood vessels and can perform an operation called resection arthroplasty of the sternoclavicular joint; however only 50% of these interventions are rated as successful by the surgeons.

So brstilson in your case, it is a mild-to-moderate condition but due to the vigorous nature of your job or your overstressing sports, it is highly recommended to visit an orthopedic specialist for SC joint separation. You can locate a good orthopedic specialist or orthopedic shoulder surgeon via these links:

Find an Orthopedic Surgeon in USA- Locate Orthopedic Surgeons in USA

Elbow and shoulder surgeons in UK and Birmingham

Anterior sternoclavicular dislocations are easy to reduce (in orthopedic parlance, to reduce a joint means to put it back in its proper position) but very difficult to maintain in position. There are surgical procedures to help maintain the reduction; however, there are a number of risks associated with surgery. Most patients who are treated non-operatively do well. Advanced Orthopedic for Joint Replacement often treat this condition non-operatively. It would be a good idea to see an orthopedic specialist so that he could follow-up on your progress.

More details about AOJR

Advanced Orthopedic for Joint Replacement. Call us today at 331-8888 or 710-8292.


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    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      10 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Thanks for your review of this hub but please refrain from posting DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit links on unrelated articles. You are mostly talking about hip replacement devices so do post your reviews on articles written on hip replacements or other joint replacement surgeries. I would not like to see more DePuy links on my hubs. Don't think that if hubbers are not responding to comments, they are dead and you can link anything. Please understand unrelated links or content is just like poison for online articles.

    • profile image

      DePuy Pinnacle Lawsuit 

      10 years ago

      Giving a complete and detailed history of one's health and lifestyle can help a doctor give you a better treatment that will suit your lifestyle. For people who experience having a sternovascular join dislocation, it is highly recommended that you go see a specialist - an orthopedic doctor.

    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      11 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi Veronica,

      Thank you so much for your comment. This hub will not only help brstilson, the person who inquired about this, but also will help many people in finding an answer to their problems related to SC joint dislocation and separation. It will also help patients suffering from this condition to learn about their problem and probably as you know well that when a human being learns about a problem, he starts finding ways to deal with the problem and give it the best shot. That is why it is said by many doctors that awareness of your disease is so important as it helps in understanding the condition and make plans on how to get treated. Also, I have listed two important links of locating orthopedic surgeons and orthopedic specialist in UK and USA. Also according to the title of this hub, these links will help patients reach their ultimate goals which is finding the best specialist for their condition.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      very good information sonni - I hope this helps this helps the individual who inquired about this.


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