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Broken Collarbone (cont.)

What Does a Broken Collarbone Feel Like?

When the collarbone actually breaks a pop or click can often be heard and felt, and this causes sudden, sharp, stabbing pain. When the affected arm is moved, grinding or clicking may be felt and the further the arm is moved away from the body the more it will hurt.

After the initial sharp pain, the area that is fractured will feel like a dull, constant ache that is made worse when the arm is moved or touched.

What Are the Symptoms of a Broken Collarbone?

  • A broken collarbone most often causes immediate pain in the area of the fracture.
  • Some people report hearing a snapping sound.
  • Most people tend to hold their arm close to their body and support it with their other hand. This avoids movement of the shoulder which would aggravate the pain. Despite the pain, some people, particularly younger athletes, can have a surprising range of motion of their arms following a broken collarbone.
  • The shoulder of the affected side is usually slumped downward and forward due to gravity.
  • If the clavicle is gently touched along its length, pain is usually greatest at one point, locating the break. Often a crunching feeling is noted over the break, known as crepitus.
  • The skin over the break often bulges outward and can be discolored a reddish-purple, indicating an early bruise.

What Kind of Doctor Treats a Broken Collarbone?

The first doctor you may see when you suspect you have fractured your collarbone is an emergency medicine specialist in the Emergency Department of a hospital, or your primary care physician (a general practitioner, family practitioner, or internist; a child may see a pediatrician). These doctors may make the initial diagnosis and then refer you to an orthopedist or orthopedic surgeon for further treatment (a doctor who specializes in injuries to the bones and joints).

What Does a Broken Collarbone Look Like?

X-ray of a broken collarbone (clavicle)
X-ray of a broken collarbone (clavicle)

When Should I See a Doctor About a Broken Collarbone?

Anyone with a suspected broken collarbone should be taken to see the doctor as soon as possible. This way, proper diagnosis and treatment can be assured.

Going to the Emergency Department is recommended for anyone with a broken collarbone when these following conditions exist:

  • Other injuries are suspected.
  • The bone is poking through the skin or looks like it will poke through the skin.
  • There is an associated numbness, tingling, discoloration, or pain in the arm.
  • The person has any difficulty breathing.
  • The injured area is rapidly swelling.
  • The pain is severe.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/30/2017

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Fracture, Clavicle »

Clavicular fractures are common injuries that account for approximately 5% of all fractures seen in the ED.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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