Broken clavicle healing

Where is the clavicle?

The clavicle is the bone that connects the breastplate (sternum) to the shoulder. It is a very solid bone that has a slight "S" shape and can be easily seen in many people. It connects to the sternum at a joint with cartilage called the sternoclavicular joint. At the other end the bone meets the shoulder area at a part of the shoulder blade (scapula) called the acromion. The joint at that end of the bone containing cartilage is called the acromioclavicular joint (Figure I).

The collarbone acts as a strut to connect the sternum to the shoulder blade. Because of the critical location of the clavicle, any severe force on the shoulder, such as falling directly onto the shoulder or falling on an outstretched arm, transfers force to the clavicle. As a result, the collarbone is one of the most commonly broken bones in the body.

How do you know it is broken?

When bones break, there is swelling due to bleeding from the blood vessels in and around the bone. There is also pain from the broken bone due to damage of microscopic nerve endings around the bone. Sometimes the bone is broken enough to create an angle between the broken ends, which causes a deformity along the bone. Usually with a broken collarbone the pain and swelling are severe

and there may be a visible deformity. Often there is pain at the site of the fracture with any attempt to move the arm. The only way to verify if there is a fracture is to get an X-ray of the area.

What should be done if you think it is broken?

If you think that the clavicle is broken, it is best to seek medical treatment right away. The best way to treat the injury until you can reach a physician or emergency facility is to immobilize the arm and shoulder by holding the arm close to the body with the other arm or in a sling. You should put ice on the injured area for 20-30 minutes at a time, making sure not to freeze the skin. Pain medication such as Tylenol or over-the-counter nonsteroidal agents such as ibuprofen or naproxyn, such as Advil or Alleve, are acceptable. The only time you should not take medication is if there is a break in the skin over the fracture, which indicates that the ends of the bones may have punctured the skin. In that case the fracture may need surgery to clean out any dirt or debris. Other indications of more severe injury include tingling, numbness or weakness in the hand or arm. If the injury is near the sternum and you have shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing you should seek immediate medical attention.

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