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Student Health Services

Clavicle Break

What is a Clavicle Fracture?

The clavicle is the collarbone, and fractures usually are due to a direct blow to the clavicle, or a fall on the shoulder. Pain and swelling are common, and a number of weeks (usually 6) are required for healing.

Ice and Elevation

Ice and Elevation are very important for the first 24-48 hours to minimize swelling and pain. Apply ice packs through cloth (don't let the ice directly touch your skin) for 30 minutes every 2 hours. Elevate the clavicle by sitting as much as possible, but not by raising your arm into the air. Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin or a prescription pain medication should be used as necessary. Most pain medications may make you sleepy -- you should not drive or engage in dangerous activities while using them!

The Splint or Sling

A clavicle splint is a figure-of-eight device with a Velcro closure. It should be snugly worn for comfort and healing, so wear it as tightly as you can, without causing increased pain or numbness to your hands. Baby powder in the armpits will help prevent chafing, and numbness.Tingling or swelling in the arm indicates that the strap is too tight. Keep the strap on all the time until you are rechecked and your clinician gives the O.K. for removal. A sling may also be used for the first week or two to help with the pain.

Recommended Activities

No weight should be lifted with your arm until all symptoms have subsided and your clinician gives the O.K. When you can painlessly touch the hand of your injured arm to your head, you may generally begin gradual activities. A period of stiffness and weakness of the shoulder is usual after the fracture has healed -- this usually responds to a short course of exercises and physical therapy.

What's that Lump?

A firm visible lump will appear on the chest wall, under the skin, at the site of the fracture in the bone. This is a normal part of the healing process, and may continue to be noticeable for a year or more. It should not be tender after 6 to 8 weeks, however.

What to Watch For

Watch for any numbness or weakness in the arm, or any change in the circulation to your fingertips -- fingers should be warm, have good "blanching" and pinkness of the nail beds, and grip should be normal.

Notify your clinician or the Student Health Service immediately if any symptoms are worsening, otherwise plan to follow-up as instructed, as this condition must be followed until rehabilitation is complete.