We commonly refer to clavicles as collar bones. The clavicle bones are the two long thin bones beneath your shoulders on the front of your body. You can easily feel them with your fingertips. The clavicles connect the sternum (breastbone) to each scapula (shoulder blade). They are far more important than you might think. Five muscles (pectoralis major, sternocleidomastoid, subclavius, deltoid and trapezius) attach to each clavicle supporting complex three-dimensional motion. The clavicles and the attached muscles supply the support and motion required for complex shoulder and arm function. If one or both of your clavicles are not in proper alignment, your shoulders and arms are likely unable to achieve their full range of motion. This misalignment is very likely to lead to an injury or pain that seems to come out of nowhere.
Why might one or both clavicles be out of alignment? This is most likely due to tight muscles or fascia. Tightness is often a result of past injuries, repetitive awkward movements, chronic poor posture, or a combination. So, how do you know if you are at risk? Look in a mirror or have someone take a photo of you with your clavicles in full view. If your clavicles don’t appear to be horizontal or near parallel with the ground, you likely have some tightness pulling your clavicles out of alignment. The more angled one or more clavicle is, the more out of alignment it is. It is far more common for the slope of the clavicle to be lower toward the center of your body and higher on the shoulder side. You may also have one or both clavicles out of alignment from front to back as well. If your shoulders are slouched the shoulder end of the clavicle may be farther forward than the other side.
In the photo above, the model has very horizontal well-aligned clavicles. The model below has very angled clavicles. This position may indicate an imbalance of tension in her muscles and fascia. The third model at the end of this article has her shoulders pulled up and forward creating both a slope and a forward position of the clavicle. This is a very unhealthy position. Hopefully this was just a pose for the camera and not a permanent position of her clavicles!
Another clue when you look in the mirror is noticing where your arms hang in relation to your body. When everything is in good alignment, the tip of your middle finger should be able to feel the side seam of your pants. (This may also be affected by lower body alignment but we’ll stick with the clavicles for now.) If your arms are hanging forward from your body, the muscles and fascia around your clavicles are probably very tight.
Here’s what can you do if your clavicles are not in the best possible alignment. Notice what muscles you need to engage to exaggerate the angle of your clavicles. The upper trapezius muscles pull the shoulder end of the clavicle up and the pectoralis pulls it forward. Lengthening these two muscles is a great place to start. You can start by doing the shoulder stretch on my website. mayerwellness.com/stretch-and-mobilize-your-fascia They key to stretching with the intent to address tightness in the fascia is to go slow , be gentle, and hold the stretch for at least a minute or two.
Taking your muscles and joints through their full range of motion on a regular basis is another way to keep your body healthy. This helps to maintain range of motion, muscle balance, and good blood supply to the area of the body you are moving. A wonderful simple and fun exercise you can do anywhere is the Paint the Bubble exercise. Look for it on my website. mayerwellness.com/stretch-and-mobilize-your-fascia This will take your shoulders through their full range of motion. Notice how your shoulders feel before and after this exercise. You will be amazed that you can actually feel a difference!
Now go look in the mirror and check out your clavicles!