Contrary to popular belief, a broken collarbone is actually a rather common injury, especially in young adults and children. Sports injuries, falls onto one of the shoulders or motor vehicle accident-related trauma are all common causes. Immediate treatment is important for a broken collarbone. Care for a broken collarbone varies, but it should be sought promptly no matter what. There are a variety of medical and home care methods to help keep the patient comfortable and allow him or her to heal.
Immediately following the injury ice should be applied. Keep applying ice to the injured area for the first three days to help to reduce swelling and pain.
If the patient’s pain is tolerable, over-the-counter medications are often recommended. If the patient is experiencing severe pain, he or she may be prescribed a narcotic pain medication.
Any broken bone has to be immobilized to allow it to heal. Since the collarbone cannot be casted, the patient will often be given an arm sling to wear. A figure-eight strap may be used in some cases to ensure the bones stay in place. How long a patient needs immobilization for will depend on how severe the patient’s injury is. For children, it typically take three to six weeks for union of the bone. For adults, it typically takes six to 12 weeks for union of the bone.
In some cases, care for a broken collarbone will require surgery. If the bone is severely out of its place, if the bone has come through the skin, or if bone is broken in several pieces, surgery is typically required. Surgery typically includes using screws, rods, or plates to repair the damage and to ensure the bone stays in the proper position to heal. While it is rare for complications to occur, if they do, they may include the bone not healing and infection.
Rehabilitation is part of the healing process. The patient’s doctor will tell him or her when exercise should be started, what types to do, and how much to do. Exercises are typically started rather early to help limit shoulder stiffness when the arm is in the sling. To increase joint motion, flexibility, and muscle strength, additional exercises will be added as the patient is able to perform them without experiencing pain. During rehabilitation it is very important that patients do not do anything that causes more pain or other symptoms. If this does occur, he or she should alert their physician immediately and stop doing the exercises.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (2011). Clavicle Fracture (Broken Collarbone). Retrieved on February 28, 2011 from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00072
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Broken Collarbone. Retrieved on February 28, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/broken-collarbone/DS01184