The collarbone connects the shoulder blade to the upper breastbone, and it is one of the most frequently broken bones. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that four percent of all adult fractures are broken collarbones – also called a broken clavicle.
When we fall, it is a natural reflex to stretch out our arms to protect our head and torso from the impact. However, this action is almost always to blame in the case of clavicle breaks – it puts immense pressure on the bone, causing it to snap. Other common culprits of a broken collarbone are contact sports, osteoporosis, or cancer.
While they can be quite painful, clavicle breaks aren’t usually serious as long as medical treatment is sought quickly after the injury occurs. Most can be healed with the use of a sling, and the bone should be fully healed after six weeks.
How Is a Broken Collarbone Diagnosed?
Clavicle fractures typically show outward symptoms including a downward sagging of the shoulder, an inability to lift one’s arm, grinding sensations, bruising, swelling, or a noticeable bump. All of these visible indicators are helpful for making an accurate diagnosis.
An imaging study (such as X-ray) is almost always ordered by the doctor. The scan will reveal important information about the broken bone, including the exact location of the fracture, how much the bone may have migrated, and whether or not other surrounding bones have been broken in the injury.
Treatment for a Fractured Clavicle
Your physician will determine whether nonsurgical or surgical methods are best suited for treating your specific condition. They will take into account the location and degree of your fracture, your age, and whether or not it is your dominant arm.
Immobilization – that is, the restriction of movement – is absolutely vital for healing a broken bone. For this reason, your physician will place your arm in a sling to provide arm support and to keep the bone in place. A cast is not appropriate for a broken collarbone.
When Is Surgery Required for a Broken Collarbone?
Fragmented bones, and bones that have severely slipped out of alignment, may require more invasive methods than just a sling. Your orthopedic physician may schedule surgery so the bone fragments heal back together properly.
Surgical realignment of the collarbone is done with the use of plates, pins, and screws. The screws will likely be removed once you have healed.
Alleviating Pain from a Fractured Bone
Icing and over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are all effective at mitigating pain caused by a broken bone. When bones are healing, you may also experience some stiffness.
As a part of your comprehensive rehabilitation plan, you may see a physical therapist. The therapist can suggest gentle exercises that are beneficial for helping you heal. Strengthening the surrounding muscles will help reduce the pain.
Orthopedists in New Jersey
Led by board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeons, Orthopedic Associates of West Jersey (OAWJ) treats a wide range of orthopedic injuries, ranging from arthritis to sports injuries and fractures of the wrist, arm, ankle, and collarbone.
Utilizing the most cutting-edge technologies, including minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, our surgeons are proud to provide a faster and easier recovery for our patients. Let us design a targeted treatment plan that works for you.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our office at (973) 989-0888 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to helping you get well again.