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Why are Clavicle Fractures Common?

patient suffering from shoulder painYour clavicle, or collarbone, is located at the front of your shoulders at the top of your chest. It serves as a link between the shoulder and body and also helps protect underlying nerves and blood vessels. A clavicle fracture is a common injury, and it makes up around 5% of all bone fractures.

In this blog, orthopedic physicians Dr. Ather Mirza and Dr. Justin Mirza of Mirza Orthopedics explain why clavicle fractures are so common.

Who is most likely to have a clavicle fracture?

Clavicle fractures can happen to anyone, but most occur in children and young adults who are under 25. That’s because your collarbone doesn’t completely harden until you’re around age 20, so it can be more likely to break in your younger years.

These fractures are also more likely to happen in men older than 55 and in women older than 75.

Why are they common?

Your clavicle is easy to fracture because it’s frequently exposed to force. The middle third of your clavicle is its thinnest and outermost part and has a lack of support by muscles and ligaments, so it’s more vulnerable to injury.

What are its symptoms?

A clavicle fracture can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain that gets worse when you move your shoulder
  • Difficulty moving (especially lifting) your arm
  • Swelling, bruising, and/or tenderness over the clavicle
  • Grinding or crackling sound when you try to move your shoulder
  • A bulge on or near your shoulder
  • Stiffness or inability to move your shoulder
  • Aching in areas around the clavicle
  • Nausea or dizziness caused by the pain

How do these fractures occur?

Clavicle fractures often happen in the following ways:

  • A fall directly on your shoulder with your arm at the side
  • Car, motorcycle, or bike accident
  • Contact sports like football
  • Impact sports like horse racing
  • Birth canal injuries to a baby during childbirth

Less commonly, these fractures can also happen as the result of a direct blow or a fall on your outstretched hand.

How are they treated?

Most broken clavicles can heal without surgery, particularly if the broken ends of bone haven’t significantly shirted out of place. Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Arm support – An arm sling can help support your arm and shoulder while it heals. Adults may need to wear it for about six to 12 weeks.
  • Medication – An over-the-counter pain medication can help relieve pain and inflammation. For more severe pain, a stronger medication may be prescribed in the very short term.
  • Physical therapy – Moving your shoulder in specific ways with the help of a physical therapist can help minimize stiffness while you’re wearing your sling. After your sling is removed, you may need more physical therapy.

In cases where the broken ends of the bone are significantly out of place, surgery may be necessary to put the bones back into position. In most cases, your orthopedic surgeon will re-position the bone fragments, and they’ll be held in place with special hardware.

No matter how your clavicle fracture is treated, it may take several months to heal.

If you think you may have broken your clavicle, make an appointment today for an evaluation with Mirza Orthopedics. Our Long Island practice specializes in combining compassionate care with technical expertise, and we’ll help you return to your active life with better results and less downtime.

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