A clavicle fracture is otherwise known as a 'broken collarbone'. This is a very common type of fracture that happens to people of all ages.
The collarbone lies between the rib cage and the shoulder blade. It connects the arm to the torso. The collarbone sits atop some important nerves and blood vessels. Even so, these aren't usually injured when the clavicle breaks.
The collarbone is long, and most fractures happen in its middle. Sometimes, the bone will fracture where it connects at the rib cage or shoulder blade.
Clavicle fractures are many times caused by a direct blow to the shoulder. This may occur when you fall on your shoulder or in a car accident. In babies, it can occur when they go through the birth canal.
These kind of fractures can be very painful. You may have trouble moving your arm. Some of its other symptoms can be:
- Sagging shoulder
- Trouble moving your arm because of the pain
- A grinding feeling when you try to raise your arm
- A bump over the fracture
- Bruising or swelling over the collarbone
The majority of clavicle fractures heal without surgery. The doctor may give you a sling to prevent movement. Some patients may take over-the-counter pain medicine, but sometimes they need a prescription pain medication. Rarely, people may have fractures near the shoulder end of the clavicle. These patients are referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
Surgery is only required in about 5%-10% of all clavicle fractures. If any of the following conditions pertain, then surgery may be required:
- Multiple fractures in one clavicle
- Open fracture of the clavicle (It breaks through the skin)
- Clavicle shortening due to bone loss
- Clavicle break that involves vascular or nerve structures
- Bone pieces fail to heal together
- Fractures that interfere with normal joint function
The general guidelines for clavicle fracture rehab include some pointers and some exercises to rehabilitate the area. Here are the pointers:
- No arm raising - You shouldn't raise your injured arm above 70 degrees in any direction for four weeks after the injury.
- No lifting - You shouldn't lift more than five pounds with the injured arm for six weeks after the injury.
- Ice - You can ice the injured area for 15 minutes three times a day to aid in reducing the pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Use a sling - Use a sling on the injured arm for three to four weeks after the injury to support the clavicle.
- Posture - When you use the sling, you need to maintain the proper bone and muscle alignment. You need to maintain good posture in the shoulder area. You cannot slouch.
There's not enough room here to describe all of the exercises that you need to do. Your physical therapist is an expert in this area and will guide you through a complete regiment.
A clavicle fracture can be very painful, and you need to consult with your doctor to determine what form of treatment is necessary. Surgery is rarely needed but in certain cases is a good idea. Generally speaking, the fracture will heal by itself. In this case, all you need to do is manage the pain and keep the area supported.