The collarbone (also known as the “clavicle”) is a long, thin bone found between the breastbone and the shoulder. While the clavicle serves several functions for the body, its main function is to is to provide support and functionality to the shoulder.
Clavicle fractures often result from falling directly on the shoulder, with common examples being when a patient falls off a bicycle or a motorcycle. Although clavicle injuries or fractures can occur at almost any age, they are especially common among young, active children and teenagers. Some common symptoms of a clavicle fracture are are follows:
- Difficulty moving your shoulder or your arm, due to severe pain
- An audible “cracking” sound that occurs whenever your arm is raised
- Swelling within the collarbone area
Clavicle fractures must be diagnosed and treated by an experienced orthopaedic surgeon. The doctor will evaluate the state of the patient’s shoulder, and will make sure there is no damage to any nerves or blood vessels. X-rays and possibly a CT scan will be conducted in order to determine the exact location and extent of the fracture.
Once the extent of the injury has been determined, a proper treatment plan for the fracture can be established. Nonsurgical treatment methods will likely include pain medication, using ice packs to numb pain and decrease swelling, sling immobilization and physical therapy. However, if the bone is out of place, surgery may be necessary. Surgery can help shift the bone back into position.
Even if the treatment plan does not include surgery, it may take several months for a clavicle fracture to heal completely. Adult patients may need up to 12 weeks to recover from the injury, while children may heal in about half that time. While the clavicle is healing, patients may need to wear a protective sling or wrap. Once a fracture heals, patients can resume all of their regular activities.