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. In babies, these fractures can occur during the passage through the birth canal.
Broken Collarbone/Clavicle Fracture Symptoms
- Clavicle fractures can be very painful and may make it hard to move your arm.
- 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
There is usually an obvious deformity, or "bump," at the fracture site. Gentle pressure over the break will bring about pain. Although a fragment of bone rarely breaks through the skin, it may push the skin into a "tent" formation. In order to pinpoint the location and severity of the break, your doctor will order an x-ray. X-rays of the entire shoulder will often be done to check for additional injuries.
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.
Non-Surgical Broken Collarbone Treatment Options
Non-surgical treatment options for a broken collarbone include:
- Physical Therapy
Surgical Treatment for Broken Collarbone
If your bones are out of place (displaced), your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery can align the bones exactly and hold them in a good position while they heal. This can improve shoulder strength when you have recovered. The orthopedic surgeon may use plates and screws or pins to hold the fracture in place after the bones are realigned.