Whether or not surgery is required to repair a broken clavicle, the long-term treatment goal is to regain shoulder strength and mobility.
Nonsurgical Treatment for a Clavicle Fracture
Nonsurgical treatment for a broken clavicle can include the following:
- An arm sling or wrap is typically worn after the break occurs. This helps prevent arm movement as the collarbone recovers.
- Pain medication, typically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen, can be taken to reduce pain.
- Physical therapy exercises will be recommended once the collarbone begins to mend. The patient will begin with mild movements to ease stiffness. More intense exercises will be added after the bone recovers.
Regular physician appointments are necessary to ensure the fractured bone pieces are mending in their correct location, as the fracture can shift out of place.
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Surgical Treatment for a Clavicle Fracture
Clavicle surgery may be needed if the fractured bones if the fractured pieces of bone are not in their correct, anatomical location. (The medical term for this is a displaced fracture). In these cases, the bones need to be moved and secured in order to heal properly. Plates, screws, and pins are often used during the surgical process. Rehabilitation after surgery involves exercises that can be done at home or with a physical therapist.
The physician will provide specific post-surgery instructions to fit the patient’s individual needs and goals. General guidelines may include:
- Wearing a sling for 3 or 4 weeks after surgery.
- Icing shoulder several times a day to reduce swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or cloth to prevent ice burn.
- Restraining from lifting objects weighing over five pounds during the first six weeks post-surgery.
- Following up with the physician and getting the appropriate x-rays to confirm healing.
- Participating in physical therapy when the physician advises to do so.
Generally, normal activity can be resumed 6 weeks after the clavicle break, but participation in contact sports should be postponed for 2 to 4 months. This provides time for the bones to heal. Healing may be slower in people who have diabetes or who use tobacco-based products, since nicotine inhibits bone healing.