The clavicle or collarbone is a bone found in the bodies of humans and other animals with grasping forelimbs. It provides a point of articulation for both the shoulderblade and the humerus, the long bone in the upper arm. As it lies close to the surface of the body, the clavicle is often visible, especially in people with minimal fat, as a raised ridge on the upper chest.
There are two clavicles, one on either side of the body. The bone is s-shaped, articulating with the scapula on one end and the sternum on the other. As part of the shoulder girdle, the joint that includes the scapula and humerus, it is the only bony attachment for the arm. It plays a critical role in the movements of the upper arm, moving with the shoulder blade to accommodate a wide range of motion.
This bone is the first to start developing during embryonic development, with ossification beginning very early in a pregnancy. It also happens to be one of the last bones to fully finish forming. The clavicle is still developing until people reach an age of around 25 and people can actually influence the development of this bone with certain types of exercises. People who do a lot of shoulder strengthening will have larger, harder clavicles.
The inside of the clavicle is made with spongy bone. A hard shell covers and protects the interior. Numerous muscles and ligaments involved in movements of the chest and shoulder attach to this bone, truly making it the “key” that is referenced with its Latin name. In some cultures, an aesthetic appreciation for the bony prominence of the clavicle has developed and numerous manifestions of this appreciation can be seen in works of art such as paintings and photography.
Fractures of this bone are relatively common. They are most frequently incurred as a result of a blow to the clavicle sustained during sports or an accident. Sometimes, this bone is broken when people throw their arms out to break a fall. Fractures may require pinning and the bone often needs to be stabilized with a brace to prevent it from healing improperly. Since it is difficult to apply a cast to this region, braces will be used to immobilize the shoulder joint of the side of the body involved while the bone heals. Physical therapy may be needed during recovery to strengthen the arm after weeks of disuse.