Clavicle Fracture

A clavicle fracture is a common injury. This article will discuss the symptoms and treatment options for this common shoulder injury. We will also outline the recovery process and outcomes.


Are you ready to take the first step toward healing your clavicle fracture? Contact our practice in Lexington, Kentucky, today and schedule your appointment with Dr. Brent J. Morris. With expertise in orthopedic shoulder care, Dr. Morris can provide personalized treatment plans tailored to your needs to ensure proper healing of your injury.

Dr. Brent J. Morris, MD, smiling.

Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon located in Lexington, KY

What is a Clavicle Fracture?

A clavicle fracture refers to a broken collarbone. This bone is located between the ribcage and the shoulder blade and helps connect the arm to the body. Despite this bone lying above blood vessels and nerves, these structures are not usually damaged when a fracture occurs.

Clavicle fractures often occur during a fall onto an outstretched arm. Most clavicle fractures occur in the middle of the shaft; however, they can also occur near the ribcage (proximal clavicle fractures) or the shoulder (distal clavicle fractures).

The collarbone can fracture in different ways. There can be a slight crack in the collarbone, or it can break into many pieces (comminuted fracture). After a break, the pieces could line up, or they could be out of place (displaced fracture). Displaced fractures will often need surgery to fix the bones in the right place while they heal.

Symptoms of a Clavicle Fracture

A clavicle fracture can cause symptoms such as:

  • Severe pain
  • Difficulty or inability to lift your arm
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Localized tenderness
  • Grinding between the broken bones
  • Deformity over the break
  • Sagging shoulder

What You Should Do if You Have a Collarbone Fracture

If you have fractured your clavicle, you should seek immediate medical help. Until you reach the physician, you should immobilize the arm with a sling or by holding the affected arm with your other arm. If the skin has not broken, you could take medication for the pain.

How is a Fractured Clavicle Treated?

If the fractured ends are still in their proper place, then non-surgical treatment may be all you need to treat the fracture. Many clavicle fractures can be treated this way. Non-surgical treatment may include the following:

  • Arm immobilization: From the moment your collarbone fractures, you should support your arm. You can do so with your unaffected arm until you get access to a sling. You will continue to use the sling until your collarbone heals.
  • Medication: Pain medication and NSAIDs can help relieve pain and swelling
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises will be given to prevent stiffness in your shoulder and elbow.
 

Surgery may be required when the broken ends of the bone do not line up.

Dr. Morris may recommend a procedure called open reduction and internal fixation. The procedure is an open surgery where the broken bones are put back into proper alignment and then held in place by hardware until the bone heals. The hardware may include plates fixed to the outside of the bone, which are held in place by screws.

The hardware is not usually removed after the fracture heals. 

Recovery

Dr. Morris will give you specific exercises to do while your clavicle heals. These gentle movements will help you to maintain shoulder and elbow movement. As the clavicle gains strength, you will be referred to a physical therapist for further exercises to strengthen your shoulder and improve mobility.

Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery process. Persistence in doing the exercises and in the proper way will lead to a better recovery.

Results

Broken collarbones can take several months to heal, regardless of whether surgery is needed or not. Healing times are generally longer in diabetics and those who smoke or use tobacco.

It is common to see a large bump over the fracture site while it is healing. The bump usually gets smaller but often stays there permanently.

You can expect to return to normal activities within 3 months of your injury. However, you should not rush your recovery, as doing so can cause the clavicle to fracture again or cause the hardware to break. This would result in starting your treatment all over again.

As soon as the clavicle has fully healed, you can usually return to sports.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you suspect a clavicle fracture, schedule your appointment with Dr. Brent J. Morris in Lexington, Kentucky. With specialized expertise in orthopedic shoulder care, Dr. Morris offers personalized treatment plans to help you recover and regain mobility. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and start your journey toward recovery!

Medically reviewed by Brent J. Morris, MD

"Dr. Morris is fantastic. He has a great personality, explains his diagnosis in simple terms, and is an excellent surgeon. Prior to my surgery he prayed with me. I give him a 11 out of 10." - William C.