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The Role of Physiotherapy in Clavicle Fracture Recovery

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process for individuals with clavicle fractures. The clavicle, also known as the collarbone, is a long bone that connects the shoulder blade to the sternum. It is one of the most commonly fractured bones in the body, often resulting from falls, sports injuries, or motor vehicle accidents. Physiotherapy interventions are essential in promoting healing, restoring range of motion, improving strength, and facilitating a safe return to normal activities. This article will explore the various aspects of physiotherapy in clavicle fracture recovery, including the initial assessment, treatment techniques, exercise programs, and potential complications. By understanding the role of physiotherapy in clavicle fracture recovery, individuals can make informed decisions about their rehabilitation journey and optimize their chances of a successful recovery.

The Initial Assessment

When a patient presents with a clavicle fracture, an initial assessment is conducted by a physiotherapist to determine the severity of the injury and develop an appropriate treatment plan. The assessment typically involves:

  • Medical history review: The physiotherapist will gather information about the patient’s medical history, including any previous injuries or conditions that may impact their recovery.
  • Physical examination: The physiotherapist will assess the range of motion, strength, and stability of the affected shoulder and surrounding areas. They may also perform special tests to identify any associated injuries or complications.
  • Imaging studies: X-rays or other imaging studies may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis, assess the extent of the fracture, and rule out any additional injuries.

Based on the findings of the initial assessment, the physiotherapist will develop an individualized treatment plan tailored to the patient’s specific needs and goals.

Treatment Techniques

Physiotherapy treatment techniques for clavicle fractures aim to promote healing, reduce pain and inflammation, restore range of motion, and improve strength and function. Some common treatment techniques include:

  • Immobilization: In the initial stages of recovery, the physiotherapist may recommend immobilizing the affected arm with a sling or brace to allow the fracture to heal. This helps to protect the bone and prevent further damage.
  • Manual therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations and soft tissue mobilizations, may be used to improve joint mobility, reduce muscle tightness, and enhance tissue healing.
  • Modalities: Various modalities, such as ice or heat therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation, may be utilized to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and promote tissue healing.
  • Exercise therapy: Specific exercises are prescribed to restore range of motion, improve strength, and enhance functional abilities. These exercises may include stretching, strengthening, and proprioceptive training.
  • Posture and body mechanics education: The physiotherapist may provide guidance on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent further strain on the healing clavicle and promote optimal movement patterns.

The choice of treatment techniques depends on the individual’s condition, the stage of healing, and the presence of any associated injuries or complications.

Exercise Programs

Exercise programs are a fundamental component of physiotherapy in clavicle fracture recovery. These programs are designed to restore range of motion, improve strength and stability, and facilitate a safe return to normal activities. The exercises prescribed may vary depending on the stage of healing and the individual’s specific needs. Some common exercises included in clavicle fracture rehabilitation programs are:

  • Range of motion exercises: These exercises aim to restore the normal range of motion of the shoulder joint. They may include pendulum exercises, shoulder shrugs, and gentle stretching movements.
  • Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises target the muscles surrounding the clavicle and shoulder joint to improve stability and support. Examples of strengthening exercises include shoulder presses, rows, and push-ups.
  • Scapular stabilization exercises: The scapula, or shoulder blade, plays a crucial role in shoulder function. Scapular stabilization exercises help to improve the control and stability of the scapula, reducing the risk of compensatory movements and future injuries.
  • Functional exercises: As the healing progresses, functional exercises are introduced to simulate real-life movements and activities. These exercises aim to improve coordination, balance, and overall functional abilities.

It is important for individuals to follow their prescribed exercise programs consistently and progress gradually under the guidance of a physiotherapist. Compliance with the exercise program is crucial for achieving optimal outcomes and preventing complications.

Potential Complications

While most clavicle fractures heal well with appropriate treatment and rehabilitation, there can be potential complications that may arise during the recovery process. Some common complications associated with clavicle fractures include:

  • Non-union: In some cases, the fractured ends of the clavicle may fail to heal together, resulting in a non-union. This can lead to persistent pain, limited range of motion, and functional impairments. Physiotherapy interventions, such as electrical stimulation or ultrasound, may be used to promote bone healing in non-union cases.
  • Malunion: Malunion occurs when the fractured ends of the clavicle heal in an abnormal position. This can result in shoulder deformities, altered biomechanics, and functional limitations. Physiotherapy can help manage the symptoms associated with malunion and improve functional outcomes.
  • Shoulder stiffness: Prolonged immobilization or inadequate rehabilitation can lead to shoulder stiffness, also known as adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder. Physiotherapy interventions, including manual therapy and stretching exercises, are essential in restoring shoulder mobility and function.
  • Shoulder instability: Clavicle fractures can sometimes result in shoulder instability, where the joint becomes loose or dislocates easily. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in strengthening the surrounding muscles and improving joint stability to prevent recurrent instability episodes.

It is important for individuals to be aware of these potential complications and seek appropriate medical attention if they experience any persistent or worsening symptoms during their recovery.


Physiotherapy plays a vital role in the recovery process for individuals with clavicle fractures. Through a comprehensive initial assessment, treatment techniques, exercise programs, and management of potential complications, physiotherapists help individuals regain range of motion, strength, and function in their affected shoulder. By following a tailored rehabilitation program and working closely with a physiotherapist, individuals can optimize their chances of a successful recovery and return to their normal activities. It is important to remember that each individual’s recovery journey may vary, and it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.

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