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Clavicle Fracture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a clavicle fracture?

A clavicle fracture is a break in your clavicle (collarbone).

Shoulder Anatomy

What are the signs and symptoms of clavicle fracture?

  • Pain at the clavicle or top of the shoulder, especially with shoulder movement
  • Trouble moving your shoulder or arm
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your shoulder and arm
  • Lump or bulge in the fractured area
  • Deformed clavicle, or clavicle that looks out of place
  • Shoulder slumps down and forward
  • Support of your arm with the other hand to decrease pain

How is a clavicle fracture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and symptoms. He or she will also examine your shoulder and may press gently on the collarbone. Your provider may also check the feeling and strength in your arm, hand, and fingers. An x-ray or CT may show the fracture. You may be given contrast liquid to help the fracture show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is a clavicle fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on the damage and the kind of fracture you have. Most broken clavicles heal on their own. It is very important to keep your arm from moving to allow the clavicle to heal. You may need any of the following:

  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • A sling or brace will be recommended to keep your clavicle from moving so it can heal. It will also help decrease pain.
    Shoulder Sling
  • Surgery may be needed to return the bones to their normal position. Pins, plates, and screws may be used to hold the bone together.

What can I do to manage a clavicle fracture?

  • Rest as needed to help your clavicle heal. Limit your activity as directed.
  • Apply ice on your clavicle for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the bag with a towel before you apply it to your clavicle. Ice decreases swelling and pain.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended after your clavicle heals. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers turn blue or pale, or feel cold or numb.
  • Your pain gets worse, even after rest and medicine.
  • Your splint feels tight, or you have increased swelling.
  • You cannot move your fingers.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your sling or wrap comes off or gets damaged.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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