Collarbone – 6 weeks, 5 days out
So this is my new right collarbone. I’m pretty happy — as happy as one can be, I guess — with the new shape. And I’m proud that I healed it myself, trusting nature to do its job (though that was tough sometimes). There are some fairly good resources online for people with broken collarbones wanting to know what to do. I really had no idea, and never went to the doctor, so I did a lot of Googling. I got the most (but not necessarily the best) information from these two websites:
– Pinkbike broken collarbone recovery time Of course that’s the first thing people want to know. How long will I endure this hell?
– John’s Clavicle Page Lay expert-ish, though a bit pro-surgery.
Some things I learned:
1) It doesn’t matter what sling you use, figure-8 or arm sling. Doctors will argue over this probably to the point of war. My best advice is to just get your shoulder into the most natural, symmetrical position you can tolerate and then focus every minute on holding it there (yeah, I know, agonizing, but I’ve been there so I can say it). If you hunch while healing, you will heal that way. If you get on your bike and hunch over your skinny little drop bars before the bone is hard, you can’t wonder why your shoulder is sooooooooooo much shorter than the other. Shoulders up and back. Write it on your hands. Write it on your forehead.
2) Eat well. That means well-sourced whole grains, meats and vegetables. Avoid caffeine and sugar. And consider getting on a calcium/bone supplement pill, something like “Bone Up” or “Grow Bone.” You might be very vitamin D deficient if you don’t get much bare skin sun exposure (hello Pacific Northwest!) or a supplement in your diet, and that is a BIG PROBLEM. I take fermented cod liver oil. Yeah, like your grandma. Just like your grandma.
3) There is a hushed rumbling about (non-surgical) healing times, going something like this, and they’re totally true:
- Week 1 – Agony. Take lots of narcotics, sleep, watch 4,301 films (don’t bother with books and magazines you won’t be able to turn the page), watch your friends cook and clean for you, and sleep. If you can’t sleep, drug yourself to sleep. Just sleep nestled in pillows sitting against a wall or on your back if you can tolerate it. Don’t let anyone near you who can’t empathize well and don’t even dream of cuddling or hugging or sharing a bed or anything like that. My best bed buddy was my two liter Camelbak (actually Dakine) water bladder. Fill that thing near bursting and I could stay in bed forever, even take my pills laying down! Until I needed to get up to wee. OW OW OW OW OW.
- Week 2 – Weird. Your body is starting to really get used to the pain. The bone still crunches around when you move your arm at all, but it doesn’t hurt as much. It still really hurts, but not hellishly like week one. You’ll still be wearing your button-down wardrobe is what I’m saying.
- Week 3 – Your bone is crunching around in there much less, and hurting much less. You won’t need as much narcotic, but there will be bad days. Here’s where posture is really crucial. That said, you may start to notice muscle spasms and cramping toward the end of the week. Consider yourself warned
- Week 4 – Those bone ends are really trying to fuse. Hold still, dammit. No, you cannot ride your bike! Stop trying to clean your damn house and HOLD STILL. Oh, but what is that you say? Your deltoids, biceps and rhomboids are trying to self-implode? Better hope you have some pain meds left over…
- Week 5 – Your bone is no longer crunching around and you might not need pain meds at all. But now you have some MAJOR crampage. Massage, acupuncture, and light rehab. My recommendation? STAY OFF THE BIKE. Your bone is still soft and it will still hurt really freakin’ bad if you fall or have to turn quickly.
- Week 6 – You will feel amazing because your bone won’t hurt unless you contort and your muscles will be relaxing and growing back with rehab. Get on your bike with caution! Pick a nice upright bike like a cruiser, and go slow.
That’s exactly what I did last night. I was so excited, but so scared. I put on my helmet and pushed my bike out the door and suddenly the traffic on Sandy Boulevard (1/2 block from my front door) sounded like hungry dinosaurs. My heart started to race and I almost took my helmet back off. My neighbor stood stunned as I threw my leg over my bike and changed from the hobbling Quasimodo-like figure she’d come to know in the past 6 weeks to the bicycling debutante I’d dreamed of… And I’m off! Very wobbly; the brakes are so sensitive; wait, I have to stop; ag, stopping! Stopping! Is there something wrong with this bike? No, the headset and front hub are tight – keep going. Oh, well, I guess I’m riding off the curb. That didn’t hurt so bad. Wow. Oh, THAT (pothole) hurt. No cars coming, I’m taking this corner all wrong; are cars coming?! OMG! I’m doing it. I’m riding my bicycle. This has to be the most exhilarating, terrifying, and fun thing I’ve done in SIX WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS!
So happy to be back!*
*Back on the bike. I did start sewing around week 4, but the muscle spasms were a huge limiting factor. I needed to work on some rehab before I could spend any worthwhile time at the sewing machine. So, starting next week I plan to go at it with more vigor — and hopefully less pain.
Collarbones, yours look great! I broke my collar bone in a major car accident-seat belt snap. I had several other major injuries, so the collar bone took the back burner and didn’t get the tlc it needed. I was worried about how it would look, my orthopaedic doctor was like oh don’t worry, we don’t do anything with collar bones. I had the special sling, but my left arm was broken, nerves damaged, in a cast and sling…so I had to eat somehow and all that day to day stuff. Nobody was going to hand feed me! It also was in nonunion and took ages to heal. It looks awful, healed terribly, got shortened, blobby and suffer to this day 14 years later. People swear they don’t see anything there, but they must be blind or very polite. I had researched surgery a few eyars ago and at least in the UK doctors are rethinking the whole leave it alone thing, as people who have surgery do much better down the road and do not suffer long term back, shoulder and carriage issues. My collar bone truly does cause inhibit movement and cause enough pain day to day to make me wish I had seen a doctor somewhere along the way who thought this might be a good idea.
But lots of collar bones get broken and heal perfectly fine.
Not only was this wonderfully informative, it was gut-bustingly hilarious! thanks for the info and the great read!
i JUST saw your site, i wish i had found it sooner! you give great practical advice and i feel comforted receiving counsel from a fellow lady cyclist. thank you! the other sites that i came across were teeming with posts by men who seemed to be indifferent about the appearance of their deformed collarbones. i am in week three of recovery – hit and run by a fast moving car while biking. your healing is impressive and i am envious. my collarbone broke in two places. the break closest to the mid-line of my chest is jutting up and out. it is a pointy, protruding eyesore. it distresses me. the docs that i saw could care less about its appearance and said that i should not have any issues with function. thanks to your advice, i am going to make a heroic effort to hold my posture in a way that minimizes the protrusion. when i lay down, it settles down a noticeable amount. not sure how i can manage to keep it down while standing but hopefully, it is not too late!
It’s not too late! Your bone probably hasn’t fused and on top of that will be soft for several more weeks! You have plenty of time before it is a “sealed deal.” It is very hard and sometimes painful to hold that shoulder up in symmetry with your good shoulder, but in my (limited) experience, it is totally worth it. Up and back! Best of healing to you.
I heard from a friend the other day that when he broke his, he massaged the soft healing bone callus, sort of kneading it. He said that he was able to keep a huge lump from forming that way. Your bone remodels sort of like clay, so I believe that what he says is possible to an extent.
Another more drastic thing to do is to have someone help you apply traction to the collarbone. Basically they pull on your shoulder, not your arm, to lengthen the collarbone and minimize the “Z” shape of it. Your torso would need to be stabilized against that person’s pull to allow just the collarbone and muscles around it to be lengthened. By 3 weeks, as I recall, that might not have hurt too bad. It would need to happen several times a day, and before settling at night into a good sleeping position, until the bone is hard.
Ow. I broke my humerus and that was horrible enough – I had to have 4 screws and a metal rod inserted.
Glad to hear you’re back on the bike. And I’m REALLY glad that I didn’t do as much damage when I fell last week, due to streetcar tracks in Seattle.
Good luck getting back to sewing.
now you just have to break the other collarbone to even it out.