A broken collarbone or clavicle fracture is considered as a prevalent type of injury. This injury typically occurs after a fall or sustaining a direct blow or strike to the shoulder. A broken collarbone usually takes 6-8 weeks to fully recuperate in adults and 3-6 weeks among children.
The collarbone is a long slim bone that runs from the breastbone to each of the shoulders. It is connected to the breastbone and shoulder blade via ligaments. It is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible if an individual is suspected with a broken collarbone. If the doctor suspects a fracture, an X-ray is required to confirm the injury and placed under a sling and brace.
Indications of a broken collarbone
A broken collarbone can be extremely sore along with the following symptoms:
- Skin bruising
- Tenderness or swelling around the damaged area
- Bleeding if bone damaged the skin and tissues (uncommon)
- Pins and needles sensation or numbness if the nerves are damaged
The shoulder might slump downward and forward under the weight of the arm as the damaged collarbone could no longer provide support. There is also a grinding noise or snap during the injury. In severe cases, one end of the bone might protrude through the skin.
What to do for a broken collarbone
Before the individual is seen by a doctor, you have to stabilize the arm using a towel as a sling beneath the forearm and around the neck. The individual should move the affected arm as little as possible.
Provide the individual with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to minimize the pain. Aspirin should not be given to children below 16 years old.
Apply an ice pack on the injured area or a bag of frozen vegetables as an alternative. Make sure that the ice pack is covered in a clean towel or cloth to prevent injury to the skin. The cooling effect can help minimize the swelling and pain.
Most cases are allowed to heal naturally with the help of a simple triangular sling to support the arm and hold the bones together in their normal positions. The sling is applied in the hospital after an X-ray was taken to confirm damage on the collarbone. Pain medications are given to reduce the pain.
In some cases, surgery under general anesthesia is required if the injury is considered as a severe one. Various techniques are used to repair the collarbone but the commonly used method involves a plate and screws.
How long does a broken collarbone heal?
Among adults, it typically takes 6-8 weeks for a broken collarbone to fully heal but can take longer. In children, it takes 3-6 weeks to heal. Just remember though that it will take at least the same time frame to regain full strength to the shoulder.
As the fracture heals, a lump can develop along the collarbone. Take note that this is normal and often improves after a few months.