Clavicle (collar bone) fracture

Your injury may be referred to as a fracture, break or crack. These terms all mean the same thing.

When you have a fracture, it's not just the bone that's affected. You'll also have injured some of the soft tissues around it. Soft tissues include the:

  • muscles
  • ligaments
  • tendons
  • nerves
shutterstock_319265591 (2)
A clavicle (collar bone) fracture.

Recovery times

A clavicle fracture can take between 6 to 12 weeks to heal.

It's normal to have aches and discomfort beyond this. It's also common for the area to be more sensitive for several months afterwards.

What can affect your recovery?

There are some things that might affect your recovery.

Smoking

Smoking affects all your tissues and slows facture healing times. In some people, it can stop healing altogether.

Stopping smoking as your fracture heals will help to ensure the best recovery.

Get help to stop smoking.

General health

Some medical conditions, like diabetes, may slow down the healing process.

Eating a healthy diet and keeping yourself active will help your recovery.

Medication

Some medications can slow down fracture healing. If you have concerns about your medication talk to a healthcare professional.

Anti-inflammatory medication, like Ibuprofen or Naproxen, have been shown to delay healing.

What to expect after a clavicle fracture

It's common for a lump to form around the injured area at your collar bone as the healing takes place. In many cases this will remain after your clavicle has healed. You don't need to seek help for this unless there is a change to the lump.

Following your X-ray and diagnosis, your fracture will be managed in a Poly Sling.

Rehabilitation plan

There are things you can do to help your recovery after a clavicle fracture.

0 to 3 weeks after your injury

Just after your injury, you should:

  • wear sling during the day except for exercises and personal hygiene
  • choose whether to wear your sling at night
  • start some exercises for your shoulder
  • avoid lifting your elbow above shoulder height as this may be painful

3 to 6 weeks after your injury

Between 3 to 6 weeks after your injury, you should:

  • try not to use your sling
  • begin normal light activities with your arm and shoulder
  • increase movement
  • avoid heavy lifting

6 to 12 weeks after your injury

The injury should be healed between 6 to 12 weeks but heavy tasks may cause discomfort.

You should aim to:

  • resume normal day to day activities but be guided by any pain that you experience - stop if movements become painful
  • start to lift your arm overhead
  • avoid contact sport until at least 12 weeks after the injury

Help and support

If your collar bone hasn’t improved within 6 weeks of following this advice, it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about your symptoms.

Swelling

It's normal to have swelling near the fracture site. It often spreads down your arm.

Swelling can sometimes last for months. The amount of swelling can also change depending on:

  • your position
  • your activity
  • the time of day

It's important that swelling is managed well to help your recovery.

How to reduce swelling

To help reduce the swelling you should:

  • keep the other joints in your arm moving normally
  • find a balance between rest and activity
  • Use self massage to reduce swelling – gently use your fingertips to push the fluid towards your shoulder

Bruising

It's normal to have bruising after a fracture.

Bruising can be widespread and may appear a long way from your fracture. It can be very purple to start with and may change colour as you recover.

Pain after a fracture

It's normal to have some discomfort in the areas around your fracture. The areas affected can be:

  • other soft tissues
  • nearby joints
  • areas that have been immobilised

Pain can change from day to day and it doesn’t always depend on what you're doing. It's common to have pain at rest.

It's normal to have some pain even when your fracture has healed. Some people also experience discomfort in the fracture site during colder weather.

Your local pharmacy can give you advice on managing pain after a fracture.

Find your local pharmacy

Use Scotland's Service Directory to find your local pharmacy.

Pharmacies

Getting back to normal activities

There are some things you should consider when trying to get back to your normal activities.

Driving

You should contact your insurance provider before driving. Your injury may affect your insurance.

Once you're out of your sling, you must be able to safely perform an emergency stop or manoeuvre.

You should always be in full control of your vehicle.

Work

Your return to work will depend on the type of work you do and your employer. It may be possible to discuss a phased return to work or changed duties.

You don’t need to see a healthcare professional to return to work.

Daily activities

Keep doing any activities you're able to, and as your pain allows. Gradually increase what you do.

Reduced flexibility and strength may make things more difficult to start with. This will get better as you slowly build up to all your usual activities.

Mood

Frustration or low mood after an injury is normal. As you get back to normal life this should get better.

Falls

Loss of confidence is common after a fracture.

Get advice about preventing falls.

Bone scanning

You may be sent a letter inviting you for a scan of your bone density after a fracture.

It's routine to be assessed for any further risk of fracture, especially if you:

  • are over the age of 50
  • have increased risk factors for fracture

Exercises for your shoulder

You can practice exercises for your injured shoulder.

You should aim to do these exercises 4 to 5 times a day.

Stop these movements if they make your symptoms worse, or cause new pain.

Arm circles

  1. With a table or chair next to you for support, lean forward so that one arm hangs straight down. Place your other hand on the table or chair for support.
  2. Slowly rotate your free arm clockwise as if drawing a circle with your hand and occasionally change direction.
  3. Gradually increase the size of the circle.
Woman bends over and holds chair on her right for support. Her left hand swings forwards away from her body.
Slowly rotate your arm in a clockwise direction.

Arm swings

  1. With a table or chair next to you for support, lean forward so that one arm hangs straight down. Place your other hand on the table or chair for support.
  2. Slowly swing your free arm backwards and forwards and gradually increase the length of the swing.
Woman bending over. Her left arm hangs loosely by her side, whilst her right hand gently holds a chair for support.
Slowly swing your arm forwards and backwards.

Last updated:
01 August 2022