The collarbone is also known as the clavicle. You have one long collarbone that extends from the sternum to the top of each shoulder, where it attaches to your shoulder blade or scapula.  Collarbone breaks or fractures are very common, and are often due to a blow or fall. The collarbones don’t harden fully until about age 20. As a result, children and teenagers can easily fracture these bones.

Collarbone fractures commonly happen due to sport injuries, especially mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding and playing contact sports. The following injuries put individuals at risk for collarbone fracture:

  • Falls, such as falling onto the shoulder or onto an outstretched arm.
  • Sports injuries, such as a direct blow to the shoulder on the field, rink or court.
  • Traffic accidents, from a car, motorcycle or bike crash

Get help right away if you suspect a fractured collarbone. Without an evaluation or treatment, the injury may lead to chronic pain or even shoulder problems.  To diagnose a collarbone fracture, your doctor will examine you and X-rays will be taken of your chest and shoulder. You may be given medication to lessen your pain. Sometimes your doctor may order an MRI to help provide additional detailed images of your bones and surrounding soft tissues.

The symptoms of a fractured collarbone or shoulder blade include:

  • Extreme pain when you move your arm or shoulder
  • A shoulder that sags down and forward
  • Swelling, tenderness, bruising or a bump over the fracture site
  • A grinding feeling and extreme pain when you try to lift your arm
  • Bone protruding from skin, or “tenting” of skin at the fracture site

Often a collarbone fracture can be treated non-surgically with an arm sling to hold the bone in place and keep it from moving during healing. You also may be instructed to do special exercises to help improve strength and range of motion in your shoulder. If the fracture has displaced the bone, you may need surgery to repair the fracture and a small plate may be placed to hold the collarbone in place.

In children, collarbone fractures can heal as quickly as three to six weeks, while adults typically need six to twelve weeks to heal.  During the healing process your doctor will let you know when it’s ok to begin moving to reduce the stiffness and when to see a therapist to begin exercises and re-build muscle strength. Keep in mind that once the fracture is fully healed it will take additional time and exercise to restore the full mobility and strength to your shoulder.


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