Orthopedic Specialists

Broken Collarbone: Symptoms & Treatment

January 8, 2021

A very common fracture, often associated with sporting activities, is a collarbone fracture.  The collarbone, or clavicle, is the bone over the top of your chest between your breastbone (sternum) and shoulder blade (scapula).  It is easy to feel the clavicle because unlike other bones which are covered with muscle, only skin covers a large part of the bone.  

These fractures can occur in babies (usually during birth), children and adolescents (because the clavicle does not complete development until the late teens), athletes (because of the risks of falls or being hit), or when a fall onto the shoulder or an outstretched arm puts enough pressure on the bone that it snaps or breaks. Clavicle fractures account for between 2-5 percent of all fractures. These may be separated into 3 types of fractures depending on the location - mid-shaft fractures (75%), distal clavicle fractures (20%), or medial clavicle fractures (5). 

Symptoms of a broken collarbone include:
1.    Pain over the collarbone
2.    Deformity of the collarbone (tenting of the skin over the area if the fracture is displaced)
3.    Swelling and bruising around the shoulder.  This may extend down the chest and armpit.
4.    Difficulty raising the arm from the side.
5.    Numbness and tingling can occur down the arm. 

X-rays will be performed to diagnose clavicle fractures and determine position of the fracture and it is in alignment or displaced.  The treatment of the fracture is either allowing the bone to heal or performing a surgical procedure to restore proper alignment of the bone and hold it in position. Your provider will determine the best course of treatment for you.

Nonsurgical treatment may include:  Arm support with a sling or Figure of 8 brace.  Pain medication including acetaminophen can help relieve the pain as the fracture heals.  Surgical treatment again may be required to restore proper alignment to the bones in the case of a nondisplaced fracture.  

Whether the fracture treatment requires surgery or not, it can take several months for the collarbone to heal.  Healing may take longer in diabetics or in people who use tobacco products.  Most people return to their regular activities in approximately 3 months.  Your doctor will tell you when the fracture is stable enough for you to do so.  Once your fracture has completely healed, you can safely return to sports activities. If you should sustain a fall or injury and have any of the above symptoms, contact our office and we can evaluate for a possible clavicle fracture or other injury.  A referral is not necessary.   

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