Clavicle (collarbone)

The clavicle, or collarbone, connects your arm to your body. It lies between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade (scapula) and can be felt along the front of the shoulder.

How is a fracture caused?

Fractures to the collarbone are very common after a direct blow to the shoulder or a fall onto the arm when it is straight. Most fractures occur in the middle of the collarbone.

What are the symptoms?

Pain, difficulty lifting the arm, a sagging shoulder, bruising, swelling and a bump or deformity at the site of the fracture are all common symptoms.

How is it diagnosed?

Having discussed how your collarbone was injured and having carefully examined your shoulder, the specialist’s diagnosis is usually backed up by an X-ray and, in some cases, a CT scan to show the extent of the damage.

How is it treated?

Non-operative treatment: keeping the shoulder rested in a sling for several weeks is often enough for it to heal, along with taking anti-inflammatory medication if recommended by your doctor. You will also be advised to follow a gentle exercise programme to gradually restore muscle strength and prevent stiffness.

Surgery: if the bones have moved out of place (become displaced), you may need to have surgery to realign them and hold them in place with screws and plates. Recent evidence has shown that, in some cases, surgery to fix the clavicle results in more rapid healing and better movement.

How long does it take to recover?

Recovery will depend on the type of injury and treatment you’ve had. Your specialist will be able to advise you on when you can expect to return to everyday activities – this is normally within three months.

Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.

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