Broken Collar Bone
By Matt Paulus, MS, ATC, Site Coordinator
Where is My Collar Bone?
What is a broken collar bone or a clavicular fracture? Your collar bone is also known as your clavicle is the bone in the front of your shoulder that connects the upper part of your breastbone (sternum) to your shoulder blade (scapula). You have one collar bone in each shoulder and it can be easily felt like the long skinny bone at the top of your chest near your shoulder
Causes of a Broken Collar Bone or Clavicle Fracture
Injuries to this bone often happen as the result of accidents such as:
- auto accidents
- falling onto your outstretched hand
- sports injuries (collisions)
- occasionally trauma during birth can cause a broken collar bone
How Do I Know If I Have a Broken Collar Bone?
The medical term for a broken collar bone is a clavicle fracture. The only way to diagnose a fracture is with appropriate imaging (x-rays, MRI, CT scan) from your doctor. If you experience any of the following after trauma to your shoulder seeks medical attention:
- Pain that increases with shoulder movement
- Swelling over the collar bone
- Tenderness over the collar bone
- Bulge or deformity on or near your shoulder
- Grinding or crackling sound when you try to move your shoulder
- Inability to move your shoulder especially above shoulder height
Treatment of a Broken Collar Bone
Most broken collar bones heal well with ice, pain relievers, a sling, physical therapy, and time. Limiting the movement of any broken bone is critical to healing. An arm sling will likely be utilized to immobilize the broken collar bone. Clavicle fractures are usually treated by orthopedic physicians (physicians who specialize in bones and joints).
How long immobilization is needed depends on the severity of the injury. The bone union usually takes three to six weeks for children and six to 12 weeks for adults.
Complicated breaks might require surgery to realign the broken bone. During the surgery, the MD will use plates, screws, or wires to hold the bone in proper position while healing takes place.
Physical Therapy After a Broken Collar Bone
Once your physician clears you to begin physical therapy the focus will be on regaining range of motion and strength. Your MD may have a specific protocol that allows you to progress at certain speeds depending on the type of fracture and healing speed.
When attending physical therapy you may be seen by a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist assistant, or an athletic trainer. All will be working with one goal: to return you to your previous level of function including sports. With a little patience and hard work, the prognosis and outcome are very good for broken collar bones.