Understanding a Clavicle Fracture
A fracture of the clavicle is a broken collarbone. This bone runs horizontally from the shoulder blade to the top of the breastbone. Clavicle fractures occur most often along the middle of the bone. Less often, they occur at the ends of the bone. The bone may be cracked, or it may be broken into 2 or more pieces. The pieces may be lined up or they may have moved out of place. Sometimes, the bone may break through the skin. Depending on how badly the bone is broken, healing may take a few months or longer.
What causes a clavicle fracture?
Clavicle fractures are common, especially in children and teens. They are often caused from a blow to the shoulder. They can also be caused from a fall, accident, or sports injury.
Symptoms of a clavicle fracture
Symptoms can include:
Bleeding, if the bone breaks through the skin
Sagging of the shoulder
Taut skin, deformity, or bump that can be seen or felt where the bone is broken
A grinding or crackling feeling when moving the shoulder
Trouble moving or using the arm or shoulder
Treating a clavicle fracture
Treatment depends on where the bone is broken and how serious the break is. If needed, the bone is put back into place. This may be done with or without surgery. If surgery is needed, the surgeon may use devices such as pins, plates, or screws to hold the bone together. You may need a sling or elastic bandage to keep the bone in place and protect it from injury during healing. Other treatments may also be used to help reduce symptoms or regain function. These include:
Cold packs. Putting an ice pack on the injured area may help reduce swelling, bruising, and pain.
Pain medicines. Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines may help reduce pain and swelling.
Limits on activity. You may need to avoid lifting or driving, or movements such as reaching and pulling until the bone has healed.
Exercises. You may be given certain exercises to do at home or with a physical therapist. These help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the injured arm and shoulder.
Possible complications of a clavicle fracture
These can include:
Poor healing of the bone
Bump that can be seen or felt even after the bone has healed
Weakness, stiffness, or loss of range of motion in the arm and shoulder
Osteoarthritis in the joints at either end
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed
Symptoms that don’t get better with treatment, or get worse
Numbness, tingling, coldness, or swelling in your arm, hand, or fingers
A sling that is damaged or feels too tight or loose
Unusual redness, warmth, swelling, bleeding, or drainage from any open wounds or incision sites
March 21, 2017
Andermahr J, et al. Fractures and Dislocations of the Clavicle. In: Browner BD, et al, editors. Skeletal Trauma: Basic Science, Management, and Reconstruction. 5 ed. Philadelphia: Sauders; 2015. p. 1499-518., Basamania CJ, et al. Fractures of the Clavicle. In: Rockwood CA, et al, editors. Shoulder. Philadelphia: Sauders; 2009. p. 381-452., Eiff MP, et al. Clavicle and Scapula Fractures. In: Eiff MP, et al, editors. Fracture Management for Primary Care. 3 ed. Philadelphia: Saunders; 2012. p. 175-86., Hatch RL, et al. Clavicle fractures. Up To Date. December 16 ed: Up To Date; 2015. p. 14.
Bellendir, Trina, MSPT, CLT,Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.,Joseph, Thomas N, MD