As usual in part one of this two part post I talked about what a clavicle fracture is and how to recognize whether you have suffered one. This post will be dedicated to further education on the topic including focusing on how physical therapy can help.
The good news about is that most clavicle fractures are treated without surgery, but I think it is important to explain what will happen if it is determined that you will need surgery.
Rehabilitation after surgery is very similar to what is done for nonsurgical cases, but for each client to move through the program he/she will have follow a strict schedule set by the surgeon.
When is comes to clavicle fractures physical therapy usually begins immediately following the operation, and will continue for 8 to 12 weeks. During the very first week after surgery your physical therapist will mostly be helping you control pain and swelling, but there is a possibility that you may start some gentle motion exercises. During this time you will still be wearing a sling or brace for support your arm and provide comfort.
After 4 weeks – if x-rays show good position and stability – your physical therapist help you to recover full range of motion in your shoulder. At about 6 to 8 weeks if x-rays continue to show adequate healing treatment will progress to include strengthening and resistance exercises.
It is important to keep in mind that these time frames will vary among individuals based on differences in age, health, the complexity of the injury, and the surgical procedure.
Without Surgery – How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
The first thing you need to remember is that at first the arm involved in the fracture will be placed in a sling or a figure-8 brace to secure it and support its weight to keep you comfortable.
Your physical therapy will begin early to help reduce pain and swelling. When you can tolerate movement of the arm your physical therapist will prescribe gentle exercises to prevent stiffness, and start to help you recover full movement.
Be patient – as healing progresses the pain and swelling will gradually resolve. When your physician sees adequate healing he/she will ask your physical therapist to help you star to reducing using your brace. In addition the exercises you and your physical therapist do together will gradually progress so that you can be more active – and also to prevent weakness and stiffness.
After 6 to 8 weeks – or when the bone shows adequate healing – you can start to do more strenuous strengthening exercises. Your physical therapist will design a return-to-activity training program specifically for you that takes into account your daily activities, work requirements, and sports (if you participate in any).
Most patients return to non strenuous daily activity after about 6 weeks, and strenuous job duties after 9 to 12 weeks.
What Kind of Physical Therapist Do I Need?
All physical therapists are prepared through education and experience to treat clavicle fractures.
Here are some things that you may want to consider:
– A physical therapist that is experienced in treating sports injuries, pediatric injuries, or orthopedic conditions.
– A physical therapist who is a board-certified clinical specialist, or who has completed a residency or fellowship in orthopedics and sports physical therapy. This type of therapist has advanced knowledge and experience in that area that apply to your condition.
– Recommendations from family and friends or from other health care providers.
– Ask about your potential therapists experience in helping people who have fractured a clavicle/collarbone.
– During your first visit with the physical therapist, be prepared to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible
If you are currently looking for a physical therapist to help with this problem we urge you to get in contact with us immediately. We have many well trained therapists on staff that are really and willing to help you take the necessary steps to heal. We can be reached at 201-585-7300, or you can fill out our contact us form online.