Your collarbone plays a pivotal role in stabilizing your shoulder and arm, but it’s also not the best suited to handle trauma. Because of this, it’s one of the most common bones that is broken each year, accounting for 4 percent of all fractures and 35 percent of all shoulder injuries. It’s very common in contact sports, but it also occurs routinely after a hard fall or in the event of an automobile accident.
One positive thing about collarbone fractures is that they tend to heal well without surgery. With that said, time alone isn’t going to get your shoulder back to full strength and function. That’s why physical therapy is so common after a collarbone fracture. In today’s blog, we explain how our physical therapy team can help you come back stronger from a collarbone fracture.
Understanding Collarbone Fractures
The collarbone (clavicle) is located on the front of your shoulder and connects your arm to your body by a joint at the sternum and at the scapula. It provides key stabilization to the shoulder during movement, and its location also helps to protect some key nerves and blood vessels under the shoulder. Compared to other bones, it doesn’t take all that much force for the clavicle to fracture. When this happens, the fracture is usually categorized into one of three different classifications:
- Midshaft Fractures – A midshaft fracture occurs when the break develops in the middle of the bone. This is the most common way for the collarbone to fracture, accounting for roughly 80 percent of all collarbone fractures.
- Lateral-End Fractures – An LE collarbone fracture develops near the acromio-clavicular joint, accounting for roughly 15 percent of collarbone fractures.
- Medial-End Fractures – An ME collarbone fracture develops near the sterno-clavicular joint, and is considered rare, accounting for about five percent of clavicle fractures.
Each of these fractures can also be classified as nondisplaced, displaced or comminuted. Nondisplaced fractures are the most common and typically heal just fine without surgery, whereas displaced and comminuted fractures may require surgical intervention to ensure proper bone healing.
Treating Collarbone Fractures With PT
Individuals who suffer a collarbone fracture will typically have their arm put in a sling or brace to help take pressure off the shoulder as healing runs its course. As you might imagine, extended time in one position can lead to muscle atrophy and other functional deficits, which is why physical therapy is typically prescribed once enough healing has taken place. Connecting with a physical therapist and going through a PT routine will help to:
- Improve flexibility in the shoulder
- Prevent stiffness
- Increase range of motion
- Restrengthen weakened muscles
- Stabilize the two recovering joints
- Decrease pain that may come with movement
- Work towards a return to full activity
With the help of a physical therapy program, most people can return to non-strenuous daily activities around the six-week mark, while return to sport or physical labor tends to occur around 9-12 weeks after the fracture. The timeline and rehab program is similar for those who need to undergo surgery to address their clavicle fracture.
So if you have suffered a collarbone fracture and want to get your shoulder back to a pre-injury level of fitness, know that you’ll need more than just rest to get there. To give your body the best chance at a full and strong recovery, reach out to a physical therapy team in your area. In the greater Twin Cities area, consider the team at OrthoRehab Specialists. Give our team a call today to see how we can help make your collarbone fracture a thing of the past.