Your clavicle is one of two long thin bones at the top of your chest.  These bones are often called “collar bones”.

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What causes collar bone fractures?

Collar bone fractures are quite common. It can happen when a person falls on an outstretched hand or onto a shoulder, or in other accidents where the collar bone is hit directly.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain in shoulder

  • Problems moving shoulder or arm

  • Swelling and bruising

  • Shoulder deformity

How it is diagnosed? 

The fracture is found with imaging (x-rays and/or CT scan) and physical exam. 

What is the treatment?

Because of the position of the collar bone, it is not possible to wear a cast if you break this bone.

  • Closed fracture (bone has not broken through the skin): you will likely have a sling for your arm. It is often more comfortable to wear the sling than have it off. 

  • Open fracture (bone breaks through the skin) and some closed fractures: your doctor may need to repair it with surgery. Afterward, you will likely wear a sling to support your arm while your collar bone heals.

At first you will keep the sling on for immobilization. Before leaving the hospital, your doctor will have you start to come out of the sling to begin Codman exercises (see next page). You will also work on very gentle range of motion exercises (ROM) that you will continue when you go home. 

Restrictions While Healing

  • NO lifting greater than 5 pounds.

  • NO lifting your arm over your head. 

  • NO pushing or pulling with your arm greater than 5 pounds.  

What should I expect during healing?

You will need to limit your lifting while your bones heal. Your doctor will talk with you about how much you can lift and how long you need to restrict your movements. Based on how severe your injuries are, your restrictions may be different than noted above. You will be encouraged to wiggle your fingers and wrist and to raise your arm on a pillow to help lower the swelling. A doctor or therapist will give you exercises to help your injured shoulder recover and regain strength. 

It usually takes about 12 weeks for the bone to heal completely. This depends on many things, such as your age and your general health. You should not smoke as this slows bone healing. Check with your doctor before taking other medicines besides those prescribed. You should not take NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Aleve, Excedrin) as these also slow the healing of bones. Follow up with your doctor in order to check your healing progress.

Codman Exercises

  1. Pendulum (Forward and Backward)

    • Let arm swing freely by rocking body weight forward and backward. 

    • Start with about 15 seconds for each exercise. Gradually increase to about a minute. Base how long you do it on how you feel. Your shoulder should start to loosen up and move more freely. Stop if you feel a sharp pain.

    • Do 3 sessions per day. 

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  2. Pendulum (Side-to-Side)

    • Spread your feet and slowly rock side to side, letting your arm swing freely.

    • Start with about 15 seconds for each exercise. Gradually increase to about a minute. Let your body weight move your arm. Stop if you feel a sharp pain. 

    • Do 3 sessions per day.

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  3. Pendulum (Circular)

    • Let arm move in circle clockwise, then counterclockwise, by rocking body weight in circular pattern. 

    • Circle about 15 seconds in each direction. Gradually increase to about a minute. Base how long you do it on how you feel. 

    • Do 3 sessions per day.

When should I call my doctor?

  • If you have severe pain, or your pain gets worse.

  • If you have numbness or tingling in your fingers, or your fingers look blue or purple. 

  • If the skin around the injury changes color, is irritated or is raised up. 

Phone Numbers to Call

  • Patients of the Orthopedic Clinic: Call (608)265-7540 

  • After hours, on weekends, and holidays call UW Hospital Paging Operator at 608-262-0486. Ask for the Orthopedic doctor on call. Give your name and phone number with area code to the operator. A health care provider will call you back. 

  • If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.