- Daniel Weingold, MD, specializes in sports medicine and practices in our Burke and Springfield offices.
A clavicle fracture, also known as a broken collarbone, is a very common fracture that occurs in people of all ages.
The collarbone (clavicle) is located between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade (scapula), and it connects the arm to the body. The clavicle is a long bone and most breaks occur in the middle of it. Occasionally, the bone will break where it attaches at the ribcage or shoulder blade.
Clavicle fractures are often caused by a direct blow to the shoulder. This can happen during a fall onto the shoulder or a car collision. A fall onto an outstretched arm can also cause a clavicle fracture.
Clavicle fractures can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm. Additional symptoms include:
- Sagging shoulder (down and forward)
- Inability to lift the arm because of pain
- A grinding sensation if an attempt is made to raise the arm
- A deformity or "bump" over the break
- Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone
If the broken ends of the bones have not shifted out of place and line up correctly, you may not need surgery. Broken collarbones can heal without surgery.
- A simple arm sling is usually used for comfort immediately after the break. These are worn to support your arm and help keep it in position while it heals.
- Pain medication, including acetaminophen, can help relieve pain as the fracture heals.
- Once your bone begins to heal, the pain will decrease and your doctor may start gentle shoulder and elbow exercises. These exercises will help prevent stiffness and weakness. More strenuous exercises can gradually be started once the fracture is completely healed.
- You will need to see your doctor regularly until your fracture heals to make sure the bone is healing in good position.
- The fracture can move out of place before it heals. It is important to follow up with your doctor as scheduled to make sure the bone stays in position.
- If the fracture fragments do move out of place and the bones heal in that position, it is called a "malunion." Treatment for this is determined by how far out of place the bones are and how much this affects your arm movement.
- A large bump over the fracture site may develop as the fracture heals. This usually gets smaller over time, but a small bump may remain permanently.
- If your bones are out of place (displaced), you may need surgery. Surgery can align the bones exactly and hold them in good position while they heal. This can improve shoulder strength when you have recovered.
- During this operation, the bone fragments are first repositioned into their normal alignment, and then held in place with special screws and/or by attaching metal plates to the outer surface of the bone.
- Plates and screws are usually not removed after the bone has healed, unless they are causing discomfort.
- Pins can also be used to hold the fracture in good position after the bone ends have been put back in place. Pins are usually removed once the fracture has healed.
Read about one of my patients who had surgery to repair his clavicle and is now back to playing soccer.
For more information on Dr. Weingold, read his bio on our website.