Broken Collarbone (Clavicle)
Whether you call it a broken collarbone, or a clavicle fracture, it is a break in one of two long, thin bones that connect the breastbone to your shoulder blades at the top of your rib cage. You can see or feel your collarbones running beneath the top of your shoulders and stopping on either side of your oesophagus.
3 Types Of Clavicle Fractures
- The most common type of collarbone break is to the middle of the collarbone between the breastbone and the shoulder joint.
- The second most common break to the collarbone is near the shoulder joint.
- The least common type of broken collarbone that rarely presents is one near the breastbone.
Broken Collarbone Symptoms
A broken collarbone is typically obvious, but not always. Some people with high pain thresholds or people who experience the rare condition of radiation transfer pain may feel pain in a region of the chest or rib cage. Generally speaking, most people will feel their clavicle break or hear a crack when it happens, but if there is a lot of noise or the bones are thin from osteoporosis, you might have atypical symptoms and not be aware that you have broken the bone per se.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily — most often, bones in the hip, spine, ribs, and wrists. Osteoporosis is called a ‘silent disease because you may not notice any changes until a bone breaks for no apparent reason and without trauma or an injury to explain the break. With osteoporosis, your bones have been losing strength and becoming fragile and brittle for many years without you knowing. A bone density test will determine if you have osteoporosis.
Post Collarbone Break
After you have broken the collarbone, you will typically display and feel the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain and swelling
- Trouble with moving your arm and shoulder
- Intense pain when weight is placed on the arm, i.e., picking up a full coffee mug.
- When you raise or lower your arm, a grinding feeling as the broken bones rub together is called crepitus.
- Noticeable sagging or a sunken area in the broken collarbone
- A bump will form around the break area as it calcifies, and the bone heals, leaving a permanent reminder of the break you can see or feel depending on individual body fat ratios.
What Are Common Broken Collarbone Causes
Where osteoporosis is not a contributing factor, broken collarbones are typically the result of an accident that caused direct trauma to the bone. The most common causes of a broken collarbone include:
- Full-contact martial arts
- Fall on or direct impact to your shoulder
- Falling hard on your outstretched hand or arm. This transfers the impact force to your collarbone, which snaps under the tension, unable to flex past a certain point.
- Cycle-related accidents in both motor and pedal vehicles.
- Horse riding falls
Broken Collarbone Diagnosis
A trip to your GP or the nearest emergency room is on the cards if you think you have broken your collarbone, especially if there is tingling, numbness, or weakness present and persistent in your hand or arm. It could be more serious if your injury is near the sternum above your heart area and you have trouble breathing or swallowing.
Try not to move your arm. Hold it close to your body with your non-injured arm or make a sling from a triangle bandage and sling and secure the arm to the chest with the hand raised higher than the elbow, fingers resting on the non-broken shoulder.
To diagnose a broken collarbone, the doctor will give you a thorough physical exam and order chest X-rays to confirm the break. If nerve damage is suspected, the doctor may want a more detailed look and order a CT scan or an MRI.
Broken Collarbone Treatment
Unless the bone has fractured badly in several places or been dislodged after the break requiring surgical correction, a broken collarbone will heal on its own in eight-ten weeks. Things you can do to assist with the healing include:
- Splint or brace your shoulder to prevent further knocking or damage while the break heals.
- A sling for your arm, which you might use for the first week or two.
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers, like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Mersyndol, help with pain management and ice packs to control swelling.
- A physiotherapist usually gives range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.
In rare cases, especially when ligaments or nerves are damaged, you may require surgery to mend a collarbone fracture.
What Is The Recovery Time For A Broken Collarbone
The bone should have fully repaired within ten weeks in non-surgical cases. People requiring surgical intervention will recover at different speeds depending on how much of the collarbone was damaged and to what degree.
In young children under 8, a broken collarbone may heal in 4-5 weeks.
A broken collarbone in adults and teens who’ve stopped growing can take 8-12 weeks or longer to heal.
You are ready to return to your previous physical activity when:
- The doctor has taken an X-ray and confirmed the collarbone is healed.
- You can move your arm and shoulder without any pain.
Don’t rush back into your activities too soon. If you start working out before your collarbone is healed, you could break it again. You should generally wait 10-12 weeks before playing any contact sports, like football or hockey.
How To Prevent A Broken Collarbone
Collarbone fractures are difficult to prevent as they typically result from accidents or falls. Sometimes, life throws us curve balls that cannot be prevented even with all the precautions in place.
- Using the correct sporting protection, like shoulder pads, can help to limit the potential damage in full-contact sports and martial arts.
- Choose well-fitting, sports-appropriate footwear for balance.
- Warm up properly before each workout or sports activity.
- Wear protective gear when playing contact sports.
- Build strong, flexible muscles with stretching exercises and strength training.
- Maintain good vitamin D and calcium levels from sun exposure and eat various healthy, natural foods!
First Aid Course Experts
First Aid is the practice of recognising the signs and symptoms of medical conditions that require the appropriate treatment and, in some cases, requires the person to assist others in a life-threatening emergency. If you have never taken a FACE First Aid Course, now is the perfect time to visit our website and book the next available First Aid course closest to you.