The clavicle, commonly called the collarbone, can fracture due to accidents and even a hard blow or fall. It is a common injury, especially among athletes participating in contact sports like football. But even stay-at-home moms and kids are not entirely in the clear as anyone can slip, fall, and fracture their collarbone at home.
That said, there have been several cases where newborns sustained broken collarbones during delivery as they pass through the birth canal. In addition, if you incorrectly wear your seatbelt, a clavicle fracture may occur even in a non-fatal accident.
A broken collarbone can be quite excruciating, but it isn’t the end of the world. There are steps to take when you experience a broken collarbone to restore your health as soon as possible.
But first, how do you know your collarbone is broken?
Signs of clavicle fracture
While broken collarbones can occur anywhere and at any age in different circumstances, the symptoms are the same. When you sustain a clavicle fracture, you’ll likely hear a crack as the bone breaks, accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Swelling and intense pain around your shoulder
- It becomes difficult to move your arm and shoulder
- Sagging shoulder
- A grinding sensation when raising your arm.
If you notice these symptoms, you should see a doctor for an X-ray to diagnose your condition. If the doctor confirms that it’s a clavicle fracture, what next?
A broken collarbone will heal on its own over time, but there are steps you can take to expedite the healing process.
Steps to take after sustaining a clavicle fracture
1. Brace your shoulder
Applying a brace or splint in the area can help a broken collarbone heal faster. This will allow the broken bones to fuse back together and mend as mobility is restricted. If you allow free movement, it will be painful, and you will hinder the fractured bones from joining.
2. Put your arm in a sling
After bracing your arm, consider putting it in a sling to restrict movement further. The sling will also prevent unnecessary pressure on your arm due to gravity, reducing pain and promoting faster healing.
3. Use painkillers
Let’s face it; clavicle fracture is pretty painful, and the pain won’t entirely disappear with a sling or brace. So using OTC painkillers like ibuprofen is recommended as you heal. Note that the drugs won’t promote healing but only reduce the pain.
4. Go for physical therapy
Your collarbone typically becomes weak after a fracture, and physical therapy can help strengthen it. These physical exercises can further help to prevent a re-injury. It is a strenuous part of your recovery that will help improve your range of motion after wearing a sling and brace for a long time.
It won’t go away immediately
Even after applying all the above tips, note that a broken collarbone won’t heal overnight as if by magic. It will take anything from 6 to 8 weeks for a broken collarbone to heal in adults and 3 to 6 weeks in children. Also, remember that a fractured collarbone is prone to re-breaks, so you must be extremely careful during physical activity to avoid a recurrence.