Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Broken Collarbone (Clavicle)
The collarbone (clavicle) is one of the main bones of the
shoulder joint. It holds the shoulder up and, along with the shoulder blade
acromioclavicular (AC) joint, provides stability and
strength to the shoulder. The collarbone also protects nerves and blood vessels
from the neck to the shoulder.
A broken collarbone is usually caused by direct contact to the collarbone or to the outside of the shoulder.
This often occurs when playing sports such as football, wrestling, or ice
The collarbone is one of the most commonly broken (fractured) bones. Young men ages 13 to 20 break it
most often. Younger children have greater chances of a broken collarbone during
Symptoms of a broken collarbone include:
The affected shoulder does not always appear out of position. But
if a deformity is present, it appears as a bump or swelling along the
collarbone or at the AC joint. The bone rarely breaks through the skin. But it may
push the skin out, causing it to have a tent-shaped look.
A broken collarbone usually is not a serious injury. In rare
cases, a broken collarbone can injure a lung or rib or pinch nerves or blood
vessels. This may cause the arm to turn pale, tingle, and feel cool or
Your doctor can usually diagnose a broken collarbone by asking
you questions and examining you. Your doctor will check:
Your doctor will usually do an
X-ray to pinpoint the location and severity of the
Many broken collarbones heal on their own. If you don't need surgery, you will use a
sling to keep your arm and shoulder from moving while
the bone heals. You will probably use the sling for at least 3 to 4 weeks. Sometimes a figure-8 strap is used instead of a sling.
You can begin simple exercises immediately and move on to
strengthening exercises when they don't cause pain. Ask your doctor when it is
safe to begin to exercise. If you start too soon, the broken collarbone may not
heal well. If you are active, do not play sports or other activities until you
can move your shoulder easily and it feels strong.
To help relieve pain, try acetaminophen or a
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Surgery may be recommended for severe
breaks. When the ends of the broken bone do not line up with each other (displaced), surgery is more likely. Many experts believe surgery is especially important in young, active people.
After surgery, you will use a sling for up to 6 weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will teach you gentle exercises to keep your shoulder moving for about 6 weeks, until you can start exercises to get your strength back. Most people have returned to all their activities by 3 months after surgery.footnote 1
Kim W, McKee MD (2008). Management of acute clavicle fractures. Orthopedic Clinics of North America, 39(4): 491–505.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Fracture of the clavicle. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 277–279. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
McMahon PJ, et al. (2014). Sports medicine. In HB Skinner, PJ McMahon, eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 5th ed., pp. 88–155. New York: McGraw-Hill.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerPatrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of:
May 22, 2015
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Patrick J. McMahon, MD - Orthopedic Surgery
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.