21 Jun I Broke my Collarbone (Ouch!) Notes to Help.
If you’ve ever broken a collarbone you know it is an unpleasant and painful experience. They cannot set the break so all you can do is wear a sling in the beginning and keep it as immobile as possible. This will be painfully obvious.
I broke mine almost 3 weeks ago today along with a couple ribs in a car accident and am sharing a list of resources I’ve found helpful so far. Questions like, “Is surgery necessary?” “When can I exercise?” “Are there any physical therapy exercises I should be doing?” “When will the pain lesson, and stop”
Spoiler on surgery question and my opinion only after talking to a surgeon and doing a lot of my own reading: surgery is not necessary in most cases but you will do that research for yourself and talk to a couple doctors to decide. Any surgery carries risk. The clavicle area is very close to arterial veins as well as nerves that could be damaged, and risk of infection is always present when they cut through the skin. As well, the plate they put in can cause long-term pain. So avoiding surgery when possible is always a prudent course. It can be scary when you see the x-ray and wonder how the bones could ever come back together. There are definitely cases where surgery is necessary and you will hear those cases in some of the resources below as well as from your doctor.
Just keep in mind that you are always referred to a surgeon, not just a regular bone doctor, in the United States anyway, and surgeons make a lot of money from surgeries so some of them might have a bias towards surgery. Some of the scientific literature in the last several years seems to be pointing toward surgery as a strong option, especially when there is 100% or more separation between the break of the bone. Luckily, my surgeon was not in that camp and he basically said the same thing I had come to after all my reading: that while the healing can take longer, and you might have a slight malunion, and forever-bump where the break heals, the clinical outcomes will eventually be roughly the same for surgery and non-surgery: range of motion, risk of lingering pain, and risk of secondary surgeries. The video in resources below (and here) called “Is surgery always better? Op vs nonop treatment of calcaneus, clavicle, and humerus fractures jumps right into a doctor reviewing the literature and expressing the non-surgical opinion.
Couple pointers. One of the things they say is to ice it right away and take pain killers. I did neither, for the most part. I would have iced it but the Emergency room docs and nurses did not tell me to and I was not in a right thinking state-of-mind post accident to think in a common sense way so by the time I did think of it, it was past the point where it would do any good. But you should!! As far as pain killers, I took a quarter dose (half a pill) of what they prescribed twice, once on day one and then again on day 2, hated how it made me feel, and stopped altogether. I don’t take ibuprofen except on very rare exceptions (it is an NSAID whose side effects are not good) but to each his/her own. My philosophy on pain killers is the body is in pain in order to tell you something. Maybe resting is what’s needed and taking a painkiller is masking the messages. Again, just my opinion, of course you should follow your doctor’s advice and your own inclination that way. 🙂
One of the articles is on exercises after a break and they are pretty easy but do NOT raise your arm above 70 degrees (90 degrees would be parallel to the ground), it will hurt like hell and impede the healing.
If you live alone, use Instacart or some grocery delivery service. It’s worth the extra few bucks. Getting someone to do cleaning and laundry will also honestly be necessary. Take everything really slow and be kind to yourself as you heal. It super sucks, but for me it’s been getting better as time passes and I am approaching the end of week 3.
The physical therapy question. The doctor I went to who is a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon said I shouldn’t worry about any physical therapy. From what I’ve read there are other opinions. There are one or two articles linked below that have some exercises. The main thing is your shoulder. It will have pain from the blow (whatever broke the collarbone) maybe from muscle soreness I’m not 100% sure. But in any case you will have atrophy from always having the sling on. The sling should be weaned off over time because of this. So in a sense that is one form of “physical therapy”, you need to move the shoulder in order for the atrophy to not cause problems (such as mobility and pain). I wear my sling when I go out for sure because it alerts people that I am injured and vulnerable. At home I only wear it now, at 3 weeks, when I start to feel too much pain.
Terminology & the new lingo. The article below called Clavicle Fracture: Symptoms Diagnosis & Treatment is very simple yet comprehensive. The best thing about it are the terminologies explained. It’s a whole new lingo to learn so I’d start there first.
In no particular order, here are several resources for you to dive into. Scientific literature, videos of doctors talking about clavicle breaks, a helpful blog article with a ton of good comments, and some exercise recommendations.
Always talk to your own doctor, this is just my own personal experience meant to give you a perspective and some information.
- How to Speed Bone Fracture Healing (6 Proven Steps) — Better Bones
- Clavicle Fracture: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
- Clavicle Break
- Treatment of Clavicle Fractures
- Is surgery always better? Op vs nonop treatment of calcaneus, clavicle, and humerus fractures
- What Exercises Can I Do After a Broken Clavicle Bone?
- Plate Fixation Versus Nonoperative Treatment for Displaced Midshaft Clavicular Fractures: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials - PubMed
- Ten (OK, twelve) things about breaking your collarbone
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