Collarbone (Clavicle) Fractures
The collarbone, also known as the clavicle, is one of the main bones in the shoulder. A collarbone fracture refers to a break in the collarbone. This is a common injury, especially among children and young adults.
There are 3 types of collarbone fractures:
- Middle of the collarbone between the breastbone and the shoulder joint (the most common)
- Near the shoulder joint
- Near the breastbone (the least common)
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
It is usually obvious when you break your collarbone. When it happens, you may hear a crack and feel it breaking. You may experience:
- Pain and swelling that increases with shoulder movement
- Being unable to move your arm
- Sagging of the shoulder
- Bruising and a bump on or near your shoulder
- A grinding and crackling sensation when you try to raise your arm
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS?
A broken collarbone typically occurs due to accidents. This includes:
Falling onto your shoulder, or hand/arm where the impact gets transferred to your collarbone
- Sports and Motor vehicle accident
These accidents can cause a direct blow to your shoulder
- Birth injury
As a baby, a clavicle fracture can occur as you pass through the birth canal
As your collarbone does not fully harden until age 20, this increases the risks of teenagers and children getting a broken collarbone. As we age, our risk of getting a broken collarbone increases as well due to weaker bones.
WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?
Your doctor will first check on the medical history of the injury, before conducting a physical examination of your shoulder.
Imaging tests such as an x-ray will be ordered, which allows the doctor to see the extent of the injury, pinpoint the location of the fracture and to confirm the diagnosis. A CT scan may also be ordered for more detailed imaging.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
A broken collarbone heals overtime. To speed up the process:
- You will be given an arm sling to restrict movement of your arm for the collarbone to be immobilized
- Anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen will be given to help relieve the pain and swelling
- You can ice the broken bone to ease pain and swelling
- Physiotherapy may also be recommended to maintain arm motion to prevent stiffness while the arm sling is on. After the sling is removed, physiotherapy will help you to regain muscle strength and restore joint mobility
If the broken collarbone has pierced through your skin, or is in several pieces, surgery will be required. This involves placing fixation devices — plates, screws or rods — to maintain proper position of your bone during healing.