Clavicle Fracture

Full recovery from a clavicle fracture can take 3-6 months, or longer. Your recuperation depends on several factors including your age, overall health, extent of the break and how well you follow your rehabilitation program.

The clavicle, or collarbone, is one of the most commonly broken bones in the body. A clavicle fracture is a partial or complete break in the clavicle, the bone that connects the breastbone (sternum) to the shoulder blade (scapula).

Because the clavicle is so small, any strong force exerted on the shoulder can cause it to break. Examples are falling on an outstretched arm and hand, falling on the shoulder or a powerful blow to the collarbone itself.

As the bone breaks, you may hear a snap or a cracking sound. Typical symptoms include pain, swelling, deformity and difficulty moving your arm or shoulder.

Immediate care requires immobilizing the arm and shoulder. The arm should be held close to the body with a sling, or by using the other arm. An ice pack wrapped in a towel should be placed on the area. It's important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Medical care starts with an examination by the doctor. You will be asked questions about the accident and your symptoms. X-rays will be taken to identify the break. The doctor may recommend conservative treatment using a supportive device such as a sling or a "figure-of-8" splint to hold the bone in place as it heals.

If the fracture does not heal well, surgery may be needed. It would be performed by an orthopaedic surgeon who might reshape the bony fragments if needed and re-attach them with hardware, such as a plate and screws.

You can expect some pain for several weeks. Your doctor may recommend medication and ice packs several times a day to reduce pain and swelling. You will receive instructions on how to protect your clavicle during the healing process. A few days after the injury, movement at the forearm, wrist, and fingers may begin. Your doctor will tell you when you can begin to move the shoulder.

Physical and occupational therapy may be recommended to help restore function in the injured shoulder, and help you return to your normal activities. At the end of the recovery process, you should be able to move your shoulder and arm without pain.