Broken Collarbone (Clavicle Fracture): Understanding Shoulder Injuries

A broken collarbone, also known as a clavicle fracture, is a common injury that affects the bone connecting the breastbone (sternum) to the shoulder blade (scapula). This type of fracture can occur due to falls, sports-related injuries, or accidents. Proper diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation are essential for optimal healing and to prevent long-term complications. Here’s a comprehensive overview of broken collarbones, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and recovery:

Causes of Broken Collarbones:

Broken collarbones can result from various causes:

  • Falls: Landing on the shoulder or outstretched arm can cause a fracture.
  • Direct Impact: Accidents or sports collisions can lead to fractures.
  • Repetitive Stress: Overuse injuries, particularly in sports like cycling.


Common signs and symptoms of a broken collarbone include:

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling at the site of the fracture.
  • Bruising and discoloration.
  • Limited arm movement and difficulty lifting objects.
  • A visible deformity or bump at the fracture site.


Diagnosing a broken collarbone involves:

  • Physical Examination: A healthcare provider assesses the shoulder for pain, swelling, deformity, and range of motion.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays are commonly used to visualize the fracture, determine its type and severity, and assess associated injuries.

Treatment Options:

The treatment approach depends on factors such as the location and severity of the fracture, as well as the patient’s overall health:

  • Nonsurgical Treatment: Most collarbone fractures can be managed without surgery. This may involve wearing a sling to support the arm and allowing the fracture to heal naturally.
  • Surgical Treatment: Complex fractures or those with significant displacement may require surgery to realign and stabilize the bones using pins, plates, or screws.

Recovery and Rehabilitation:

After treatment for a broken collarbone:

  • Follow the doctor’s instructions for sling use, wound care, and medications.
  • Gradually start gentle range-of-motion exercises under professional guidance.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended to restore strength and mobility.

Potential Complications:

While most broken collarbones heal well, there can be complications such as:

  • Malunion: Bones healing in a misaligned position.
  • Nonunion: Bones not healing properly.
  • Nerve or Blood Vessel Damage: Some fractures may affect nearby nerves or blood vessels.


To reduce the risk of broken collarbones:

  • Use proper protective gear during sports and activities.
  • Practice proper techniques to avoid falls and accidents.
  • Use caution when participating in high-impact sports or activities.


A broken collarbone can impact shoulder function and cause discomfort. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment by a healthcare provider or orthopedic specialist are crucial for successful healing and minimizing complications. With proper care, follow-up, and rehabilitation, most individuals can expect to regain full shoulder function and return to their normal activities. If you suspect a broken collarbone or experience shoulder pain after an injury, seeking medical evaluation is essential for ensuring the best possible outcome.