What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle

The following is a funny story sent to me by a rider that broke her collar bone while cycling. She found my site when searching for more information on training and recovery from the break.

Along with the story she mentions “I know it would’ve helped me alot if this information had been available when I was lost in the land of one arm. I have attached my ridiculously long account”. She then adds that I may post the story if I wish.

Well, I think it’s well worth posting. So here it is.


DISCLAIMER: The following content is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Diagnosis and treatment of all health conditions should only be performed by your doctor or other licensed health care professional. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.

What to Expect From a Broken Clavicle

By Laura Erker

On March 23rd I had the exciting experience of breaking my left clavicle while riding my bike. I thought I’d put together a synopsis of what to expect so that anyone else can read and see what’s in store. If you’re reading this and you have broken you clavicle then get someone to run out to the store and get you some really good calcium. You should take 2000mg of calcium with 6mg of Boron a day! While they’re at it, have them pick you about four books to read and ten movies to go through. Further, a really funny account of the first five days with a broken clavicle can be found on line http://www.kurlancheek.com/clavicle.htm. Also, relax, it’s gonna be a while.

So, what happened? Good question, everyone has their own version of who is to blame and how it all went down. From my vantage point I only know that I was cruising along in a group, riding into a crosswind. Someone had the bright idea to put it in the gutter and everyone started fighting for wheels. Then, I heard some tires hit and “…zzt zzzt zzt crack crack crack”. The bike in front of me came to a screeching halt and as I hit my brakes I went into a skid that had my back wheel hit the back tire in front of me. Next thing I knew I was picking myself up off the ground and getting back on my bike. But, as I rode away I realized that something was very wrong. Not only was my left shoulder ON FIRE with pain but I could feel/hear a clicking there that could only be a broken bone. Deciding that I was not stupid enough to try to ride the remaining 25 miles with a broken bone I attempted to bring myself to a stop and threw my bike in the dirt glad to be rid of that infernal pain machine. The pain was so intense now that fainting was the only possibility. But, I had to wait to lose all consciousness until I could hail down an ambulance, cab, person! I could see a group of cars a mile away down the road at the site of the crash, where I should have stayed. Well, hindsight is always 20/20. I hailed the ambulance like a cab and crawled in just in time to faint. I was then transferred to another ambulance and so began my new adventure into a one-armed existence.

The emergency room was exciting and the staff was very generous. All in all, a three hour affair in the door and out. It ends up I broke the distal third of my collar bone. However, getting a hold of someone to pick me up became a new challenge. I didn’t have my cell phone with me and not knowing any phone numbers I had to go on the internet to get the number of my team director, Chris Evertsen. Chris or an official was able to relate to my husband where I was located and he headed off to get me. After sitting in the emergency entrance for hours, seeing my husband come through the door of the emergency room was one of the happiest moments of my life!

Week 1 (This is movie week)

One quickly learns that it is a two-armed world out there and this will not make your broken clavicled life any easier. But, on with life.

Killing the pain. First, let’s discuss the power of alchohol. Through the ages this fine substance has been used to dull the pain of many a fallen soldier. Seeing myself as such, I broke into the whiskey with wild abandon. Choosing Jack Daniels’ as my personal “fav’ I set out to imbibe. If you dose this correctly you won’t have to pick up your prescription vicadin. Careful to drink a glass of water for each alcoholic drink so you avoid hangovers.

Dressing, this becomes a new adventure. You must keep your hurt shoulder extremely still. This means that the arm attached to it is completely useless. If you are a woman then forget the bra. If you must have a bra get someone you “trust’ to put your most comfortable one on and realize you will be wearing this item for at least two or three days. Unable to work out how to get a t-shirt on I tried my shirts that button up. You soon come to realize that buttons are not an option. Ok, back to regular shirts. I could get large t-shirts on by feeding the sleeve of the bad arm over my useless hand up to my armpit and then carefully pulling it over my head and then putting my functional arm in the other arm hole. Getting the t-shirt off again is usually a two-person project. Forget tying shoelaces or wearing tight pants, they become the enemy.

Sleeping. Most certainly, one must avoid, at all costs, rolling onto the affected shoulder during the first week. This will wake you up in just as much pain as the day you crashed. I found that propping pillows all along the length of my body helped to reduce unwarranted movement. I slept a lot, there wasn’t much else to do. But, this doesn’t really matter, as dressing, eating, and drinking will take about 5 times longer than usual, so I filled my day accordingly.

Book read: Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Movies watched: a lot!
Alcohol consumption: can’t accurately remember :’)

Week 2

Now I was really starting to feel better, less pain in the shoulder and I could use my hand a bit. But my shoulder turned a pallid green. The bruising is disgusting and continued to creep down my torso for another week. But, since I only owned three t-shirts that I could manage to pull over my arm and head I just continued with the same state of affairs. It was about now that I realized I only had one thing to do to entertain myself!go to work. So, off I went arm in sling. I had only two things on my “to do” list each day. These items were usually something that would normally take me about an hour. Not now, I could spend all day working on simple problems. I had to get people to open the freezers for me and handle mice etc! But I got to talk with everyone at work quite a bit :’). I’d be able to work about 6 hours maximum a day before I completely cracked. This is when I learned to value of ibuprofen! One little pill can take a cranky/pained Laura and turn her into a working machine for about 2 more hours, lovely.

Comraderie. It was now that I learned that walking around in a sling attracts a lot of attention. People have to comment. They can’t help it.

“Fall off a bar stool?”
“Boy, broken collar bone, that’s the worst!”

I quickly pointed out that being on fire would probably be worse, but ok it’s nice to know people care.

I also learned that other injured people are most certainly your friend. You have to ask them what they did, and if they have a good left arm then you always ask if you could borrow it, or something corny like this. But, it’s fun.

I also started to get on the bike at the gym around this time. According to one man, I was great inspiration working out with my sling on. Well, I’d surely give up my inspiration status to use my left arm again, buddy! I went home suddenly after some of these visits to the gym because I would try to do too much and BLAM, pain again. Don’t do sit ups.

Doctor visit. It was mid-week that I was able to go and see a doctor. I sat there for about an hour just to get a referral to an orthopedist. Once I got in to see the nurse she looked straight at me (let me remind the reader that I was wearing my left arm in a sling and was covered with a big green bruise that covered my arm and torso)!

“So, what is your problem, today?”
“I have a broken clavicle and need to be referred to an orthopedist”
“Which arm is broken?”
(again, I remind the reader that my left arm was is a sling)
“My left arm”
“Okay, and what are you doing for it?”
I point to the sling, flabbergasted.
“When did it happen?”
“One week ago” I replied.
Surprised, “And you haven’t been in to see a doctor yet?”
“Well, no, I was just starting to feel like I could venture out of my “healing cocoon’.”
“Alright, let’s get you an appointment. Right, so the soonest our orthopedist can see you will be April 22nd.”
“That’s in three weeks! I have a broken bone. Isn’t there something sooner?”
“There isn’t really anything we can do for that, do you have any ibuprofen?”

Eventually I got x-rayed and was told to come back in three weeks.

Book Read: Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov

Week 3

I felt the same as Week 2 but was able to get on the trainer with my sling. I got a workout regimen from Hans Kellner on line. Very nice guy, who broke his clavicle a while back, you can go to !

Hans Kellner Dot Com :: Broken Clavicle No More

The training regimen consists of workouts broken up by Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3. Wow, I thought, this guy was training at week 1. Well, straight onto the trainer then, let’s get to work. Ends up, “Week 1” should be approached more as “the first week he began training after the break”. Holding my entire upper body up on my bike trainer with just my right arm was another challenge I hadn’t anticipated. I pushed through it. Also, it seems it only took Hans three weeks to recover, that’s only as long as his workout regimen was. Excellent, I’ll only be on the trainer for one week! This is great. Again, it ends up the three week training regimen can be repeated ad infinitum until you heal, just a little heads up.

Pit of Despair. This probably only applies to women. I could not shave the injured arm’s pit! This was horrible and I began to refer to this area of my body as the “pit of despair”. This is when you realize the ultimate greatness of the Mach 3 razor. You can literally shave without lifting your arm! Well lift it as much as you can. Good luck girls!

Book read: Swimming Across by Andrew Grove

Week 4

Having contracted some kind of horrible cold (which I affectionately call “the snot blanket”) I was unable to sleep at night or workout. I fell into a depressive mood. Out of desperation I rode my bike on the road for one hour and ended up hurting it again. This is when I completely cracked under the strain of heading out into the world each and every day facing new painful challenges. I was tired of it. I wanted just one day where I didn’t have to struggle to get my clothes on or sleep! I felt that no one could possibly understand the pain I was going through. It was during this time that a friend and coworker died in a tragic car accident. Suddenly I found myself very appreciative of my situation. I was alive, fairly healthy and had people that loved me.

Back to riding, I found that I couldn’t reach the handlebars with my bad arm until the end of Week 4, this may be because I had a distal break, but I don’t know. I just kept focusing on my appointment with the doctor and the x-ray machine. He would certainly tell me that I was completely healed and I could resume my life again. Alas, it was not to be, the x-ray looked the same as the day I broke my arm. Well, I headed back home to cry, pulled myself together, bought a year’s supply of calcium and vowed not to drink any alcohol until I was better and healed! I hear alcohol can reduce your healing abilities. Also, when you break a bone you should take 2000mg of calcium a day with 6mg of Boron.

This was the week that I talked with Dr. Allan Richberg, also a cyclist. He informed me that seeing no healing after four weeks was normal for a 30 year old. This greatly lifted my spirits! He talked with me for a good 30 minutes on what to expect from my injury. He informed me that if you ride in the early healing stages of a broken clavicle you will most probably put a rib into your lung if you crash. This was alarming, why didn’t my doctor tell me this. Thanks Allan!

Book read: Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams

Week 5

My arm started to feel a lot better now. I could lift it over my head! Also, I could start driving my car with two hands. This was great! I started really riding the trainer a lot and was able to just get my left hand up to the bars comfortably and put a little weight on it. I did seven hours on the trainer this week, good for me. Whoever thought I’d be riding my trainer so much in So Cal with it sunny and 80F outside!

Book read: Finished Hitch Hiker’s Guide

Week 6

I risked a ride on the road, against the doctor’s orders and found that my arm was ok. Whew!

Book read: Sequel to Hitch Hiker’s guide “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” by Doug Adams

Week 7

Now I am back to riding 3 times a week and really enjoying it. My body sure is tired though.

Book read: Finished Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Doug Adams

Week 8

I have an appointment with the doctor to get x-rayed again. Keep your fingers crossed. I am really looking forward to racing and just glued my ksyriums with the help of the best husband in the world, Jacob Erker.

Book read: Started Ringworld by Larry Niven

More “Broken Collar Bone” Articles

Don’t miss reading the information and comments in the other collar bone entries:

759 responses

  1. Sam Gray Avatar
    Sam Gray

    I broke my Humorous and Clavile a year and a half ago, and being a swimmer I got pushed back to the times from two year before even though i still have a broken collar bone, which still hurts I swim, I’ve wondered should I get it fixed, you seem to be experienced in bone breaking .

    Hi Sam – If you are still experiencing problems, such as pain, after this length of time then I would recommend you visit your doctor or a specialist (e.g. an orthopedist) for an examination. Be sure to explain that you are a swimmer and need the use of your arm and shoulder for the activity. Detail the pain you are experiencing and what your expectations are. Hopefully they will be able to help. It can also useful getting a second doctor’s opinion.

  2. Raheel khan Avatar
    Raheel khan

    this is raheel from Pakistan. 4 weeks back i went for shopping, after shopping i caught a rickshaw for getting me home. after 5 mins of travelling my rickshaw tyre badly hit a rock and banggg. The rickshaw has fallen down and so as i . when i got up i found a sharp pain in my left shoulder and my arm is unable to move. i have called to my brother and he took me to the hospital. The doctor recommended x ray and when reports came it shows that i have a clavicle fracture.. the doctor put my arm on sling and i was on sling for 2 weeks. after 2 weeks another x ray was done that shows the mal union of my clavicl. the bone. the doctor has advised me for surgery. i have taken a second opnion from other hospital. They put a plaster on my arm and chest and told me tat my clavicle would be fine. after two weeks of plaster my shoulder becomes stiff and i felt like my shoulder is seperate thing from my body. Also there are sharp pain in my neck and clavicle bone sometimes. i m so worried whther i should go to a surgery or not…

    Sorry to hear about your accident. It sounds like your muscles and joints are stiffening from lack of movement. This can cause the symptoms you describe. I recommend talking with your doctor about these issues. Lack of movement can also cause problems for the joints. As for having surgery or not, I also recommend thoroughly discussing this with your doctor. If your condition isn’t improving then surgery will be one way to have a better guarantee of recovery.

    – Hans

  3. Diego Avatar

    Diego here once again. This is just a follow-up, I took off the brace since last night and I feel much better now without it. It feels good to finally free myself of that brace after 5 weeks. I have a good range of movement — can straighten my arm, bend my elbows, and even started to play the guitar again.

    I will go to a therapist tonight to have a therapeutic massage my left arm, shoulder and back. I think I can go to work without the brace starting tomorrow. It’s amazing for me at 40 to feel ok after just 5 weeks. I thank God for this.

    Thanks by the way Hans for your reply, I just would to ask from what week did you start the physiotherapy that you suggested?

    Great news! It’s been a while but I believe I started physical therapy 3 weeks after the break. Very simple light therapy that increased with time. I did a quick search and found this information which might help you: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/surgeryrehab/qt/Clavicle-Rehab.htm.

    – Hans

  4. Diego Avatar

    Hi I’m Diego of the Philippines, just would like to share how I’m coping up with my left middle collarbone fracture which happened about 4 weeks ago in the gym. The stories I read here was really helpful as it provides me advance info what to expect on each week of my recovery. Thank you Hans for putting up this site as it provides me the reassurance that I will heal without the surgery because without this rich sources of info I might have undergone the surgery process now. To show my gratitude I would like to share also my experience to motivate others who are recent collarbone break sufferers.

    I have a displaced fractured/comminuted collarbone but my ortho advised me to allow natural healing — although he gave me about 60-70% chance of healing at first due to degree of my injury and my age at 40. But after 4 weeks, my doc gave me 90% chance seeing my condition and recent xray. The bones are still displaced just exactly similar perhaps to my first xray but the fragments showed promising development and it seems that it bridges well the gap — there’s probable callus formation at the those fragments. My ortho said that if I will successfully healed my bones will not be perfectly aligned as it was, I will have a permanent bump where the break was. He further said that with therapy and exercises I will be able to regain my range of movement anyway so the bump is the only disadvantage and it is not worth opening me up through surgery.

    The good news is that after 4 weeks I am now able to use my arm from below shoulder level. The ortho warned me to not aggressively try to raise my arm above shoulder level to minimize risk of re-fracture. Sleeping is not anymore a problem as I can sleep now without pain. By the way, I did only took pain relievers during the 1st two days of my injury and after that the pain was just tolerable so I did not bother to take any pain relievers anymore. However, I’m still using the Figure 8 brace since day 2 (4 weeks ago) and my ortho advised me to wear it for 4 more weeks. The good thing about my break was that it allowed me to work even after the incident — I made no downtimes with my work. I can say that the Figure 8 brace really carried me from day 1 as it provided me the comfort and support. I did not even bother to use the sling as I don’t want people to notice my injury although my ortho strongly suggested that I wear it. I’m also lucky to have a job that only requires me to handle meetings, presentations, and prepare reports so that’s the reason why I was really able to function well even with my injury. Without the sling most of my officemates don’t even noticed that I injured my self. Well I’m ashamed of telling them that I got a bad injury like this because I’m the Safety Officer of the company anyway. LOL. So only Figure 8 brace with no sling but I do recover well ‘frozen shoulder’ as they call it here but I really made concious effort not to move left arm aggressively.

    Thank God, it is really true that broken collarbone heal itself and most likely surgery is not needed. By the way, here’s my advise to those recent collarbone sufferers like me.

    1. Consider using the Figure 8 brace from Day 1 (I wore it even when I sleep) but remove it during bath time. Be sure that you observe proper posture after removing the brace to immobilised that shoulder. There are time at the shower you will feel that you are not healing because without the brace you will really feel unsupported and very much broken. But as the days passed I noticed that the bones are now attached to each other but the bond are not that strong yet I can tell. So just be careful especially when you remove the figure 8 brace.

    2. If you can tolerate the pain stay away from pain killers (like I did) to speed up bone healing. Pain killers are bone snatchers.

    3. Eat foods that are rich in calcium (i.e. milk, cereals, soy milk)- go check the internet on this. I also took 3 tabs of calcium supplements per day at 600mg per tablet. I followed the suggestion that I should intake 2000mg of calcium and food rich with boron (i.e. apples) for proper calcium absorption. It is not a matter of much calcium you take but rather how much you absorb.

    4. Made a concious effort not to move your shoulder aggressively — even if it is not painful. If you are not using a sling just like I did, be sure to rest your pocket, to a table, etc. Do not allow it to hang straight as it may displace the fracture even further.

    5. No alcoholic drinks, coffe and other meats rich with fats (these drinks/foods are bone snatchers).

    6. Maintain a positive mind and pray a lot — all things are possible if you just believe.

    Hans, do you have a recommended physio exercises to successfully raise my arm above shoulder level? Thanks in advance and heal well everyone.

    Great writeup of your recovery! I’m glad to hear the site has helped and that your recovery is going well.

    For my physical therapy I would perform the “finger wall crawl”. Face the wall at half your arm’s length. Extend your hand to the wall and touch it with your finger tips. Now “walk” two of your fingers up the wall as high as possible but stop as soon as there is any sign of discomfort. Repeat two more times. Continue this exercise each day and try to “climb” a little higher on the wall each time.

    There are some other therapies you might consider. For example, using small weights and/or therabands (large rubber bands) to strengthen the muscles. If possible try and schedule a visit with a physical therapist. That will provide you with a recovery plan tailored exactly to your injury.

    – Hans

    1. Reniel Avatar

      Helloo Diego. I’m From philippines too.. I had my right clavicle fractured. just had 1 question how dis-aligned your collarbone? my is approximately 1 cm apart. do you think this can be help by 8 points brace and sling?


  5. Mandar Gadre Avatar

    Dear Laura
    What a beautiful write up it is. I am in my first week of collar bone fracture. Fortunately the bone has only one single crack and not to the full depth of the bone.
    Your write up has motivted me a lot. I will be visiting my doctor on the 10th day of the fall and hope he gives permission for gym cycling and walking.

  6. Rami Avatar

    Hans thank you for your reply….just to update u on my situation..have seen another dr and he put me on a figure 8 which fixed my posture as well as aligned my clavicle…I feel more confident and comfortable like this….the sling honestly in my situation was not doing it…3 more weeks should be enough to heal…figure 8 really feels like only way to go as you have already been saying since ur injury as well 🙂 happy healing everybody

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