Collarbone Fracture

You have a break (fracture) in your collarbone (clavicle). This will cause swelling, pain, and bruising. The first few weeks will be the most painful. This is because deep breathing, coughing, or changing position from sitting to lying down may cause the broken ends to move slightly. 

The fracture will heal in about 4 to 6 weeks. Most people can return to normal activities in about 3 months. In children, this injury will heal often by reshaping the bone back to normal. In adults, a noticeable bump in the bone may remain.

Treatment is with a sling or a special type of arm sling called a shoulder immobilizer. This supports your arm and eases pain. Most fractures can be treated this way. But more complicated breaks may need surgery. This is done by an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in treating bone, muscle, joint, and tendon problems.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself or your child at home:

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area. Do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours on the first day. You can make an ice pack by wrapping a plastic bag of ice cubes in a thin towel. Keep using the ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use it as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • If you were given a sling or shoulder immobilizer, wear it for comfort. You may take it off when you bathe or sleep. Take your arm out of the sling for a little while each day and move your shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand to keep them from getting stiff.

  • Don’t do any heavy lifting or raise the injured arm overhead until you are pain-free. Your child shouldn’t play sports or do physical education class for at least 4 weeks, or until the healthcare provider says it’s OK to do so.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or digestive bleeding.

  • Your doctor may refer you to physical therapy for shoulder exercises once it starts to heal.

  • You may need surgery if the bones are out of place (displaced). Surgery will put them in better alignment while they heal. This leads to better strength when you have healed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider within 1 week, or as advised. This is to be sure the bone is healing the way it should.

X-rays are occasionally taken of the fracture. You will be told of any new findings that may affect your care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Swelling in your collarbone gets worse or the skin in the area becomes pale or discolored

  • Large area of bruising over the collarbone

  • Fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • Shortness of breath, dizziness, or general weakness

  • Weakness or swelling in your arm

  • Any redness, drainage, or pus coming from the wound

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