Fractured Clavicle

A fracture to the clavicle (or collarbone) is a very common injury to the shoulder. It is prominent in children, and also common to people who partake in contact sports.

Symptoms of a Fractured Clavicle

Sharp pain in the clavicle area near the top of the shoulder, which is exacerbated with any movement of the arm. Pain often spreads to the surrounding areas and muscles. Tenderness may also be present, and inflammation is likely. The injury will regularly exhibit visible signs such as bruising or an unnatural lump in the skin. In some cases arm movement can be fully impaired. Other symptoms include nausea and seeing spots in the field of vision.

Causes of Fractured Clavicle

A fractured clavicle is most commonly caused by a nasty fall onto the shoulder. In sports this can occur while cycling, horse riding or during similar activities with a risk of falling. The injury can also be provoked by a direct strike to the area in contact sports such as rugby, basketball or hockey. A smaller fall onto an outstretched arm can also lead to this fracture. High incidence has additionally been noted in winter sports. Children are more prone to this fracture, and babies often sustain the injury as a result of a problematic delivery.

Medical Treatment for Fractured Clavicle

A doctor can usually diagnose a fractured clavicle with a simple physical exam due to the visibility of such an injury. They may examine the lungs in order to check for complications arising from the damaged collarbone. Sometimes an x-ray might be necessary to sufficiently view the extent of the fracture.

The injured arm will be placed in a sling to limit further pain and possible damage caused by excessive movement, and to set the arm in a suitable position for recovery. Pain medication (often paracetamol) is generally prescribed to reduce symptoms while the bone heals. An operation is rarely necessary, with 9 out of 10 cases healing without surgical intervention. If treated is recommended then the doctor will explain the reasons for this, which often include an inability for the arm to heal itself after a number of months.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation from a Fractured Clavicle

The doctor will also assist with providing physical therapy and advising suitable stretching and strengthening exercises to keep the shoulder and elbow from complete immobility. This will vary from case to case, but regularly the patient is permitted to remove their sling during the initial month period for gentle and specific exercises. Gradually the physical therapy will become more active as the shoulder heals more effectively, with full bone recovery often expected within 3 to 4 months and full mobility and strength generally recovered within 6 to 12 months.

Prevention of a Fractured Clavicle

Unfortunately it can be difficult to foresee damaging falls, but always wearing the correct protective equipment for each activity can help to limit risks, especially those of blunt trauma in a contact sport.

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