What is a broken collar bone, and how is it treated?
A clavicle fracture, also known as a broken clavicle, is an injury to the collarbone that affects people of all ages. Clavicle fractures are fairly common and account for between 2% and 5% of all fractures.
Broken collarbones are especially seen among athletes and children who participate in contact sports.
A broken clavicle bone can be extremely painful and lead to a diminished range of motion in the shoulder joint.
If you have had a recent injury in the shoulder area and/or are experiencing pain in your clavicle, then schedule a consultation with one of our shoulder specialists at OrthoNeuro to get an accurate diagnosis!
Our board-certified orthopedic and sports medicine specialists in Columbus, OH have helped thousands of patients with clavicle fractures return to an active and healthy lifestyle using a variety of treatment options.
A broken clavicle (or collarbone) is a type of fracture with the bone breaking in two or more sections. It may appear as a crack or as separated bone fragments.
The collarbone is one of the most important bones in the body. It connects the arm to the torso and helps provide stability to the shoulder joint.
The clavicle plays an important role in activities like lifting objects overhead, throwing a ball, or swinging a bat.
A broken collarbone is a common injury that can occur when direct trauma or force is applied to the shoulder area.
Most clavicle fractures occur near the middle of the bone and are usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm or impact from contact sports.
It’s also possible for a fracture to occur near where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade (acromial end) or where it connects with the breastbone (sternal end).
In some cases, repetitive activities such as heavy lifting may lead to stress fractures in the collarbone, which can cause pain over time as opposed to sudden trauma.
Other causes of a broken collarbone include road traffic accidents and other high-impact collisions.
There are four primary types of collarbone fractures: stable, comminuted, displaced, and distal clavicle fractures.
Stable collarbone fractures occur when the broken ends of the bone line up correctly and no displacement has occurred.
This type of fracture is relatively easy to treat with non-surgical techniques like immobilization using a sling or splint.
A comminuted fracture is when the bone breaks into multiple pieces. This type of fracture requires a more complex healing process and can take longer than other types of collarbone fractures to heal completely.
A displaced fracture is when the broken pieces of the bone move very far apart from each other, making it difficult for them to align correctly during the healing process.
Depending on the severity, surgery may be required to realign the bones.
Distal clavicle fractures, also known as AC joint separations, occur near where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade.
This type of fracture is often caused by a direct impact on the shoulder and requires treatment for the bone to heal properly.
The primary symptom of a broken collarbone is pain at the fracture site. It may feel like a sharp, stabbing sensation that worsens when lifting your arm or pushing on the fracture site.
Other symptoms of a broken collarbone include:
In severe cases of fracture, it is possible for the broken bone to protrude from under the skin. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately, as prompt treatment can help reduce complications and speed up recovery.
Diagnosis of a broken collarbone usually begins with a physical examination. Your doctor will likely inspect your shoulder area for any tenderness, swelling, deformity, or limitation in motion. They may also ask you to move your arm in certain directions to assess the extent of your pain and range of motion.
Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs may be used to determine the specific location and severity of the break. Additionally, an MRI is sometimes used to look at the soft tissues around your collarbone.
The most common treatment for broken clavicle fractures is to keep the fracture immobilized with a sling and swathe dressing. This will help protect the fracture while it heals, allowing it to recover more quickly and properly.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you wear a brace or cast instead of a sling to provide additional support and stability.
In severe cases, or if the fracture is not healing properly, surgery may be necessary. During this procedure, your surgeon will insert metal plates or screws into the fracture to hold the bones in place until they are healed.
Surgery is often recommended for displaced fractures (where the bone pieces have moved out of alignment), as it can help put them back in their proper position so they can heal correctly.
Your doctor will likely recommend limiting your physical activity until your fracture heals fully and practicing good fracture care at home (such as avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous activities).
With proper care and treatment, most fractures will eventually heal on their own.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of a clavicle fracture, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified orthopedic specialists at one of our many convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus.
We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which treatment is best for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation!
Medically reviewed by
B. Rodney Comisar, MD, FAAOS
Orthopedic Hand & Elbow Surgeon
Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon
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