Broken Collarbone In Children - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Broken Collarbone In Children

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A clavicle fracture, or any fracture for that matter, is a rather painful condition. But, how does a clavicle fracture specifically affect your quality of life, and what complications can it cause? If you can relate to the situation above, or are simply looking for some literature on a clavicle fracture, consider reading our post here. Below, we talk about a broken collarbone in children, the causes, and its symptoms.

What Is A Clavicle Fracture?

The clavicle is commonly known as a collarbone. It lies underneath your scapula (shoulder blade) and above your sternum (breastbone). A clavicle fracture means a broken collarbone.

A clavicle fracture is a common injury. Depending on the nature of the fracture, you may need surgery to heal the bone. But at most times, use of ice packs on the injury, physical therapy and your arm in a sling may be enough to treat your clavicle fracture (1).

Causes Of Broken Collarbone In Children:

The clavicle is a thin and long bone. The collarbone is still developing until the age of 20. Therefore, clavicle fractures are common injuries in children and teens (2). Bone strength decreases as you age, so clavicle fractures are also common injuries in the elderly (3).

A clavicle fracture can occur due to many reasons.

  • Sports injuries – shoulder injuries during games/sports can easily fracture the collar bone.
  • Falls – direct impact on shoulders or arms.
  • Vehicle accidents – a direct hit on the collarbone in a vehicle accident.
  • Birth injury – infants can break their collarbone during the natural birth process (4). (5).

[ Read: Fractures In Children ]

Symptoms Of A Clavicle Fracture In Children:

Here are the symptoms that may indicate you have a clavicle fracture.

  • Sagging shoulders.
  • Pain in the shoulders, arms or the collarbone.
  • Difficulty in moving the arms.
  • Crackling noise when raising the arm or moving the shoulders.
  • A gradual increase in pain in the affected area.
  • Tenderness, bruising and swelling in the affected area.
  • Stiffness in the shoulders.
  • A feeling of numbness in the arms if the injury also affects the nerves in the area.
  • Bleeding in the area if the broken bones pierce the skin tissues, which is quite rare (6).

Diagnosing A Clavicle Fracture:

To confirm if you have a clavicle fracture, your doctor will study the affected area with the help of X-rays. With X-rays, your doctor can see the extent of your clavicle injury and check to see if the adjoining bones are also affected or broken along with your clavicle fracture.

In rare cases, the doctor may resort to computerized tomography (CT) scans to analyze the injury using more information (7).

[ Read: Broken Tailbone In Children ]

Treating A Clavicle Fracture:

The treatment for broken collarbone in children takes time. In the case of a clavicle fracture, the time of the healing may depend on your age along with the extent of your injury. In children and teens, the healing may take place within three weeks but this time can extend to 6 weeks or so.

For adults, the same process may take longer and the healing time may require anywhere between 6 to 12 weeks. In the case of newborns, the healing requires handling the infant with minimum movement of his body and with any other treatment that the doctor prescribes depending on the nature of the fracture (8).

The treatment for broken collarbone child may include the following steps :

  • For most cases of clavicle fractures, doctors let the bone heal in a natural way. You may have to wear your arm in a sling and restrict movement in your shoulder and arms. When the bones are held together in their usual setting, the body’s healing process takes over to mend the injuries. After your doctor confirms that you indeed have a clavicle fracture, an arm sling is often the next step in the treatment process. It is also a good idea to use ice packs on the injury while you wait for your treatment.
  • The doctor may prescribe you some medicines for the pain and to reduce the swelling in the area. Most often, over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers (such as ibuprofen or naproxen) do the job of giving relief from the fracture pain. In rare cases, you may need a stronger dose of a prescription pill. But avoid taking any painkillers without your doctor’s approval. You may experience complications even from OTC painkiller use if you suffer from high blood pressure, stomach ulcers or kidney problems. Avoid giving aspirin to kids. Using the pills in the initial hours of your injury may also cause bleeding (9).
  •  Surgery may be needed to treat broken clavicle in children if the bone has multiple fractures or the bone displacement is severe. You may also need surgery if the collarbone has pierced through your tissues and skin. Clavicle fracture surgeries take place with the help of rods, screws or plates. These fixation devices help your bone to maintain a correct position that is necessary for it to heal. Before your surgery, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about any potential risks. In rare cases, surgeries to treat clavicle fractures may cause infections in the body.
  • Physical therapy is part of all types bone injuries. In the initial stages, your doctor may recommend slight movement of your arms to facilitate your healing. But only after your initial X-rays and after your arm is safe in a sling. It is done to reduce stiffness in the affected area that may increase during the treatment process. You may require additional physical therapy once the bone has set.

[ Read: Nursemaid’s Elbow In Children ]

Aftercare For A Clavicle Fracture:

Some aftercare practices may facilitate the healing of your clavicle fracture (10).

  • Continue to use ice packs on the affected area if you experience any pain (11).
  • Use the support of pillows if you feel pain in your sleeping position.
  • Avoid any strenuous physical activity (including any contact sport) until your doctor gives you permission for it. This period of rest may be up to 12 weeks after your injury.

Preventing A Clavicle Fracture:

  • It is not always possible to prevent clavicle fractures as these happen due to accidental falls and injuries.
  • Take precautions wherever possible such as wearing protective gear if you participate in contact sports
  • Have a proper warm-up before playing sports.
  • Include calcium and vitamin D in your diet to strengthen your bones.

You may not be able to avoid accidents that lead to your clavicle to fracture. But it is extremely important to take all necessary aftercare precautions to ensure quick and optimum healing of your injury.

Have you or your kids suffered from a clavicle fracture? What did you do about it? Tell us below.

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