Did you know that your body is made up of no less than 206 bones and 360 joints? Of those, your knees and hips are among the most vulnerable to injury or age-related wear and tear, but shoulders and elbows are also susceptible to the ravages of aging or if you are an athlete or a child, accidental injury in the form of fractures.
Elbow fractures often occur when a person tries to break a fall with an outstretched hand. The force of the fall can dislocate the elbow or fracture the end of the radius – the bone in the forearm closest to the elbow – known as the radial head. Oftentimes, a radial head fracture occurs as a result of a dislocated elbow when the upper arm bone slides back into place but inadvertently chips off a part of the radial head.
A broken collarbone (also known as the clavicle) is a common sports injury sustained by children at play. Some babies are even born with an injured collarbone as a result of delivery. That’s because a child’s collarbone doesn’t harden until they reach adulthood and can easily crack due to a fall or direct blow. With athletes, the force of a fall can transmit from the elbow and shoulder to the collarbone, resulting in a fracture.
Fortunately, the orthopedic doctors at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio are experts at diagnosing and treating a broken shoulder or fractured elbow.
Treatment for a Broken Collarbone
When you sustain a broken collarbone, the signs are obvious:
- Your shoulder will sag downward and forward, and the pain will be too intense for you to lift your arm.
- You will feel a grinding sensation if you attempt to raise your arm.
- You might notice a bump over the fractured area as a piece of bone pushes the skin upward.
Despite these symptoms, surgery is rarely necessary for a broken collarbone. Instead, the fracture tends to heal with conservative treatment measures, such as:
- Immobilization of the arm. A child typically wears a sling for up to four weeks, whereas an adult wears one for up to eight weeks.
- Pain management with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Physical therapy in the form of a range of motion and strengthening exercises once the pain subsides and the fracture heals. However, you should not resume sports activities or overhead-reaching motions until shoulder strength is completely restored.
Treatment for a Fractured Elbow
There are several classifications for radial head fractures based on their degree of displacement.
- Type I fractures are small cracks where the bone remains intact. Type 1 fractures require nonsurgical treatment and healing using a splint or sling for a few days, followed by a gradual increase in motion.
- A type II fracture is slightly displaced and affects a larger portion of the bone. A splint is used for a week or two to treat minimal displacement, followed by a range of motion exercises. However, if the bone is fragmented into one or more small pieces, surgery may be necessary. Larger pieces of bone can be surgically put back together with pins or screws, or the broken pieces of the radial head can be removed, which is typically the best option for older, less active individuals.
- A type III fracture is one in which more than three pieces of bone are broken and cannot be fitted back together. This indicates considerable damage to the joint and ligaments, requiring surgery to remove bone fragments and the radial head, as well as repair the soft tissue damage. In the case of severe damage, the surgeon may remove and replace the radial head with an artificial one (prosthetic) in order to improve function and mobility. Physical therapy will be needed following surgery to avoid stiffness in the joint.
Any type of radial head fracture will result in some loss of elbow extension, in which case, physical therapy will be needed to help restore range of motion and enable you to resume normal activities.
Broken Collarbone and Fractured Elbow Treatment Near You in San Antonio, Texas
If you break your collarbone or fracture your elbow, schedule a visit with one of the physicians at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio. Our experts are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating such conditions of varying severity using state-of-the-art treatments. For an appointment, don’t hesitate to call us at (210) 692-7400 or request a consultation online.