How to deal with a broken collarbone

A broken collarbone is a common form of injury. This typically occurs after a fall or sustaining a direct strike or blow to the shoulder area. In most cases, it takes around 6-8 weeks for adults to recover while 3-6 weeks for children.

The collarbone is an elongated, slender bone that starts from the breastbone up to each shoulder. It can be felt at the top part of the chest, right beneath the neck.


A broken collarbone can cause intense pain. Aside from the discomfort, it can be accompanied by:


Apply an ice pack on the site of injury to help reduce the swelling and pain.

  • Bruising
  • Tenderness or swelling around the injured area
  • Bleeding if the bone has damaged the skin and tissue
  • Pins and needles sensation or numbness if the nerves in the arms are damaged

In most cases, the shoulder seems to slump downwards and forwards under the weight of the arm since the broken collarbone is not providing any support.

There might also be a grinding or snapping sound when the bone breaks. In severe instances, one end of the bone might break through the skin.

What should I do?

While waiting to see a doctor, you should stabilize the affected arm with a towel as a sling. Make sure that this goes under the forearm and around the neck. Instruct the individual to limit movement of the arm if possible.

Over-the-counter pain medications can be given to lessen the pain. Apply an ice pack on the site of injury to help reduce the swelling and pain.

Management of a broken collarbone

In most cases of a fractured collarbone, they are left to naturally heal under a simple triangular sling to support the arm and hold the bones together in its normal position.

The sling is typically fitted after an X-ray has confirmed that the collarbone is fractured. In most cases, pain medications are given to reduce the pain.

In some cases, surgery under general anesthesia is only necessary if the damage is significant or if the bones did not align and overlap evidently.

Among adults, it takes around 6-8 weeks for a broken collarbone to heal but it might take longer. As for children, it typically takes around 3-6 weeks to recuperate. Nevertheless, it might take around the same time frame to reestablish full strength to the shoulder. As the fracture recuperates, a lump or protuberance might form throughout the collarbone. This is considered normal and often improves after a few months.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a broken collarbone is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage a fractured collarbone, register for a first aid and CPR course with Calgary First Aid.


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