March 6, 2017

Broken collarbone: Symptoms and recovery

Neck, Back and Spine | Trauma

A clavicle fracture is also known as a broken collarbone. The clavicle is a long bone and most breaks occur in the middle of it; in some cases, the bone will break where it attaches at the ribcage or shoulder blade.

Anatomy

The clavicle (collarbone) is between the ribcage and the shoulder blade. It is part of your shoulder and connects the ribcage to the arm. The clavicle lies above important nerves and blood vessels; but these vital structures are rarely injured when the clavicle breaks.

Cause

A fractured clavicle is usually caused by a direct impact to the shoulder, which can happen during a fall on the shoulder or a car accident. Rarely, a fall onto an outstretched arm can also cause a clavicle fracture.

A fractured clavicle is sometimes a medical emergency so call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room (OrthoIndy Trauma physicians are at St.Vincent Indianapolis Level I Trauma Center).

Symptoms of a clavicle fracture

  • Extreme pain in the shoulder area
  • Difficulty moving your arm
  • Sagging shoulder
  • Inability to lift your arm
  • A grinding sensation if an attempt is made to raise your arm
  • A deformity or bump over the break
  • Bruising
  • Swelling or tenderness over the collarbone

Physician examination

Your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, ask questions about the injury and how it occurred, and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray can confirm the diagnosis.

Make an appointment with an OrthoIndy trauma specialist

Broken collarbone treatment

Often, fractures can heal without surgery if the broken ends of the bones have not shifted too far out a place and still line up correctly. A simple arm sling or wrap is usually used for comfort immediately after the break. Pain medication and physical therapy will also play a part in the recovery process.

You may need surgery for a fractured clavicle if the bones are out of place or shortened at the break. Surgery can align the bones and hold them in place while they heal. The two ends of the bone are held in correct alignment after surgery with either plate and screws (more common) or a rod.

Broken collarbone recovery

Whether treatment involves surgery or not, it can take several months for a collarbone to heal. Most people return to regular activities (except maybe direct impact sports like football) within three months of their injury.

Learn more about trauma care at OrthoIndy.

The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief cover

The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Find out what's causing your back pain and how you can treat it with OrthoIndy's ultimate guide to healing back pain.

Read the guide

Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current Marketing Team Lead at OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since June 2012.

Related Posts

More from OrthoIndy

OrthoIndy now offering FREE spine MRI review

OrthoIndy now offering FREE spine MRI review

THIS POST IS PART OF THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BACK PAIN RELIEF Living with chronic back pain isn’t normal; however, the number of people suffering from back pain is on the…

More

An alternative to surgery allows patient to continue showing sheep

An alternative to surgery allows patient to continue showing sheep

David Bruner wasn’t ready to give up his love for sheep showing. After getting injections for a pinched nerve in his spine from Dr. Osborne, he is now pain-free.

More

Giving up pain pills allows patient to find back pain relief

Giving up pain pills allows patient to find back pain relief

After years of back pain and an increasing amount of addictive pain medication, patient turns to OrthoIndy physiatry to relieve back pain and quit addictive pain medication.

More

Get stories and News in your inbox

Subscribe to our weekly articles