Rehabilitation After a Fractured Collarbone

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Rehabilitation after a Fractured Collarbone

The collarbone, or clavicle, connects the arm to the rest of the body. Its job is to help stabilize the shoulder and arm as they move. A fractured clavicle is one of the most common shoulder injuries. The injury most often occurs from trauma caused by a direct blow or falling. It is most commonly found in young men due to damage that occurs while playing sports. However, it is not uncommon to occur during a fall, especially as people age. A fractured collarbone is very painful and makes it hard to move your arm. Many clavicle fractures can be treated without surgery by using a sling to keep the arm and shoulder from moving so the bone can heal. Although in some cases, surgery may be required to realign the bone because it moved far out of place when the injury occurred. 

Types of Fractures

One can suffer three types of fractures. Nondisplaced is where the pieces of the fractured bone line up and can usually heal without surgery. Displaced is the opposite, when the two parts of bones do not line up, requiring surgery. Finally, Comminuted, which will also need surgery, is when splinters or pieces of small bone are at the fracture. In severe cases, fragments of bone can pierce the skin resulting in a compound fracture. 

Signs and symptoms

If you break your collarbone, you will feel pain where the break is and throughout your collarbone. In severe cases, you may feel pain radiating throughout your entire arm. Bruising and swelling will also be present at the injury site. Many people lose the ability to lift their arm and hold it tight against their bodies. People also describe a grinding or shifting feeling when they move their arm. There is also likely going to be a bump where the fracture is. 

Physical Therapy

Everyone is different, so following a fractured clavicle, you must work closely with your physical therapist to design a rehabilitation program that is specific to you. Physical therapy is designed to help people move again with a full range of motion and strength. Directly after the injury, you will want to keep the injured arm in a sling until your health care provider says otherwise. It is also important to use ice to help reduce pain and swelling. It is also crucial to avoid raising your arm or lifting anything with the injured arm. Finally, it is vital to watch your overall body movement to maintain proper bone alignment. For example, do not slouch or shrug. Three to four weeks after your injury, you may begin physical therapy. The therapist will assess the specific ways they can help you through rehabilitation. They will go over exercises to improve range of motion and strengthening exercises to help restore the lost bone and muscle strength. As you progress with physical therapy, you will increase the intensity of the activities. Full recovery from a fractured clavicle takes time and dedication to your physical therapy program. While you may be anxious to return to normal activities, it is best to follow the directions of your health care team. 

Featured Clinician: Anthony Maritato, PT 

FEATURED CLINICIAN: Anthony Maritato, PT Anthony Maritato, PT, MSPT, is a licensed physical therapist and co-founder of Total Therapy Solutions, a private practice outpatient physical therapy business that focuses on

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