A broken clavicle, or collarbone, is a painful experience, but the recovery is fairly straightforward if you have a simple fracture. A simple fracture is a single break rather than breaks in multiple spots or shattered bone. The clavicle is most often broken during falls when you use your hands to catch yourself or when you sustain a hard blow to the outside of your shoulder that compresses the collarbone. Babies can also break a clavicle during the birthing process.
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Things you need
- Figure-eight harness
- Pain medication
Go to the emergency room for an X-ray or consult your health care provider, if you think you've broken a bone.
Keep your arm in a sling for the first week after you've broken your clavicle. A sling keeps your shoulder complex immobilised and helps the bone to begin healing. Apply ice to minimise swelling and rest as much as possible. Keep in mind that this is a general timeline; your health care provider will give you information about your particular injury, and you should follow that advice.
After the first week, replace the sling with a figure-eight harness. This device wraps around your shoulders and can be tightened between your shoulder blades. The purpose is to improve your posture so your clavicle will heal appropriately.
Consult with your doctor about how long you need to wear a support device, such as a figure-eight harness. The time may vary based on the extent of your injury, but two to three weeks is about average.
Rest your clavicle by avoiding lifting or excessive movement for as long as the pain persists. Full range of motion will typically return about six weeks after the injury occurs. Bone healing and mending will continue for a year or more, but it is not noticeable after two to three months.
Tips and warnings
- While ibuprofen is good for muscle pain and soreness, acetaminophen is better for bone injuries.
- Don't push your limits by lifting heavy objects or by trying to increase your range of motion; these abilities will come back naturally with time.
- If you are prescribed narcotics for pain relief, do not drive or operate machinery until you know how you are affected by the medication.
- Follow your health care provider's advice on how to treat and heal your broken clavicle bone.