Which is better for a collar bone fracture: figure-8 brace or arm sling?

Fractures of the clavicle (collar bone) are common and this question comes up often. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. To the best of our knowledge, there is very little scientific evidence to support one over the other — or even to suggest immobilization over doing nothing is better.

Most often, pain guides the treatment. If there is no displacement (separation) of the fracture, then nonoperative care with immobilization helps support the arm and ease the pain. The sling or brace may also serve as a reminder to limit activities that might cause fracture displacement in the early days of healing and bone remodeling.

Most experts advise immobilization if surgery is not needed. The sling or brace can be worn for two or three weeks while limiting activity levels. The patient can then gently ease back into action a little bit at a time according to his or her tolerance.

X-rays can be used to check the status of the healing bone and provide some guidance as to how long to wear the sling. When the X-ray shows the bone is knitted back together correctly, then the sling or brace can be weaned away. Some people just wear it for vigorous activities to continue protecting the bone while others wear it during the day and take it off at night. Wearing schedule should be patient driven but under the guidance of the physician.