What is broken collarbone?

Broken collarbone: Overview

You have broken or cracked your collarbone, or clavicle. The collarbone is the long, slightly curved bone that connects the shoulder to the chest. It supports the shoulder.

A broken collarbone may take 6 weeks or longer to heal. You will need to wear an arm sling to keep the broken bone from moving while it heals. At first, it may hurt to move your arm. This will get better with time.

You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.

What are the symptoms of a broken collarbone?

A broken collarbone will cause pain right away. You also may not be able to raise the affected arm. And there may be a grinding feeling when you try to lift the affected arm.

How is a broken collarbone treated?

Many broken collarbones heal on their own. If you don't need surgery, you will use a sling to keep your arm and shoulder from moving while the bone heals. You will probably use the sling for at least 3 to 4 weeks. Sometimes a figure-8 strap is used instead of a sling.

You can begin simple exercises immediately and move on to strengthening exercises when they don't cause pain. Ask your doctor when it is safe to begin to exercise or play sports. If you start too soon, the broken collarbone may not heal well.

To help relieve pain, try acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Surgery may be recommended for severe breaks. When the ends of the broken bone do not line up with each other (displaced), surgery is more likely. Many experts believe surgery is especially important in young, active people.

After surgery, you will use a sling for up to 6 weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will teach you gentle exercises to keep your shoulder moving for about 6 weeks, until you can start exercises to get your strength back. Most people have returned to all their activities by about 3 months after surgery.

How is a broken collarbone diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose a broken collarbone by asking you questions and examining you. They will check the affected area and look for a lump or bump. They may also do an X-ray.

How can you care for yourself when you have a broken collarbone?

There are lots of things you can do to care for a broken collarbone. Wear the sling for as long as your doctor tells you to. Try sleeping with pillows propped under your arm. Use cold packs and warm packs as your doctor instructs. Follow directions for any exercises you're given.

What causes a broken collarbone?

A broken collarbone is usually caused by direct contact to the collarbone or to the outside of the shoulder. This often occurs when playing sports such as football, wrestling, or ice hockey.

What is a broken collarbone?

A broken collarbone is a break (fracture) in the long, slightly curved bone that connects your shoulder to your chest. Moving your arm may be painful. Most broken collarbones heal on their own. It may take 6 weeks or longer. You'll need to use a sling while it heals.

Broken collarbone: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are very sleepy, and you have trouble waking up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your fingers become numb, tingly, cool, or pale.
  • You cannot move your arm.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have new or increased pain.
  • You have new or increased swelling.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.