The clavicle, commonly known as collarbone is a bone that serves as a strut between the sternum (breastbone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). It allows the shoulder blade to move freely on the thoracic wall and keeps the upper arm away from the thorax so that the upper limb has maximum range of movement. Moreover, the clavicle provides an attachment site for muscles and ligaments of the shoulder.
A fractured collarbone often occurs from falling horizontally on the shoulder or with an outstretched hand. A direct hit to the collarbone that occurs from the lateral side towards the medial side of the bone can also cause a break.
Collisions in contact sports such as wrestling, football or rugby may cause trauma to the collarbone. If this force is beyond what the clavicle can withstand, a fracture in the bone may occur. A fracture can also occur from a bicycle, motorcycle, or car accident. A clavicle fracture can range from a minor fracture to a severe compound fracture with obvious deformity.
Patients with a collarbone fracture typically experience a sudden onset of sharp ache, particularly with movements. Extreme pain in and around clavicle area, including surrounding muscles is felt when one attempts to perform movements of the upper limb such as overhead activities, arm elevation, or pulling. One may also hear a crackling or grinding sound when he or she tries to move shoulder. There is usually localized tenderness at the site of injury. Swelling between the neck and the point of the shoulder following a fracture is also common among many patients. People with a collarbone fracture may also hear a popping sound at the time of injury.
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of a broken clavicle bone, you should immediately contact your nearest physiotherapy clinic to get the diagnosis. A physical therapy expert will carry out a thorough subjective and objective examination in order to determine the fracture type and extent of injury. An x-ray of the clavicle bone is required to confirm the diagnosis. In more severe cases, a magnetic resonance imaging scan or an ultrasound imaging will be performed.
Patients with a clavicle fracture should avoid activities that place large amounts of stress on the shoulder area. The initial treatment comprises of pain medications that help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Icing the injured area for 10-15 minutes, three times a day is very effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Immobilizing the affected area with a sling or figure-of-8 bandage for 3-4 weeks helps keep the joint stable and decreases the risk of further damage.
Physiotherapy exercises help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility of the shoulder to ensure an optimal outcome. Performing “shoulder blade squeezes” and “pendular circles” 2 times a day in the supervision of an expert at a physiotherapy clinic hasten healing and speed up recovery. Light strengthening exercises such as resistance-band workouts also allow the healing process to take place at a faster pace. Soft tissue massage, electrotherapy and postural taping allow the bone to heal itself. Surgery is employed in those patients who don’t respond to conservative treatment.
Consult a physiotherapy expert at Happy Physio for advice. Call (08) 9272 7359 now!