Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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Ten (OK, twelve) things about breaking your collarbone

Posted by Matt, December 19, 2008 There are 55 comments so far

Matt's broken collarbone X-ray
Up until this year I’ve been lucky enough never to have broken a single bone in my body. I probably haven’t been trying hard enough which suits me fine, if you’re injured you can’t ride for a start. But this year, as most of you know I collided heavily with a tree and the tree won quite easily, leaving me with a broken collarbone.

What can you expect if you’re unlucky enough to experience the same? Here’s a list of the main points.

  1. Breaking a bone hurts, a lot. In my limited experience, not as bad as suffering for an entire weekend with a raging tooth abcess but close. The thing is, although it’s the sort of pain that makes you want to be very good and sit still if it would just stop hurting, when you do sit still it does stop hurting. Until you move of course. But for me, tooth pain is worse because it won’t stop, ever.
  2. Like tooth pain, when it stops hurting it’s difficult to remember how bad it was, which is probably a good thing. Until you move.
  3. The first week or so is the worst if you are following the traditional ‘strap it up and wait for nature to mend it’ course. The bone starts making new stuff pretty quickly but after a couple of days the sensation of the two ends sticking and then pulling apart as you move still makes me feel nauseous if I think about it.
  4. There is a wide range of estimates of how long it takes to heal. I’ve heard of people being back at work the next day (frankly that’s in the borderline insane category) to up to eight or ten weeks. For me, I had five and a half weeks in a sling followed by another couple of weeks to get mobility back enough to drive a car. And it was a simple (but clean) break. My advice is listen to your body first, then doctors. There are no shortcuts.
  5. Painkillers are a boon and a curse. Put it this way, codeine based painkillers are known for effective pain relief, followed by ummm, constipation. Calculate your dosage based on need.
  6. Most medical advice is offered on a ‘don’t do anything unless necessary (or we’re getting paid for it)’ basis. This gives rise to consultants suggesting pinning the bone whereas NHS doctors say ‘it’ll be fine, just wait’. If you think pinning is worthwhile, insist early on or it’s not worth it as the bone is healing straight away. For me, pinning would have saved time but not necessarily been the best option as it was a simple break and was always going to heal on its own. Pinning involves cutting muscles and invasive surgery, the wait and see approach is longer but does work. I’ve been lucky enough to get a full range of movement back albeit with the odd shoulder click.
  7. The medical system is obscure. Not because people don’t want to help (all the medical staff I met were great), but because they see this stuff so often they forget it’s a massive deal for you. My most upsetting moments were from being treated as a statistic or a ‘problem’ rather than a patient. Going private prevents this but even so, make a point of asking questions and pushing for answers.
  8. If you break your collarbone and have it strapped for any period of time (the most common treatment), expect the Armpit of Doom. It will happen. A combination of hot material from the sling itself, an immobile shoulder and a difficulty in washing can only lead to one result. It’s unpleasant, especially in high summer and has lead me to boggle at the thought of where all that dead skin normally goes. That’s enough for me to say but do your best to stay clean.
  9. The value of a good physiotherapist cannot be over estimated. I’ve been to a few over the years but the one that worked on me after I was out of the sling was the best I’ve had. After that length of time immobile you lose strength dramatically but also flexibility to the point where my elbow wouldn’t straighten and I couldn’t get my arm above my head or behind my back. The physio sorted all that and now I’m fine. And armpit massages (cf. the Armpit of Doom) are odd, painful and embarrassing in equal measure.
  10. Fitness. If you are injured, you will lose fitness. There’s nothing you can do about this but don’t be tempted to ‘get back on the horse’ too soon. It may be tempting but the consequences of another injury are both more time off the bike and potentially far worse damage to deal with long term. Wait until the physio says it’s OK to start training and do exactly what they say. When you do get back to riding, the first ride or so will be fine, after which the extended layoff will really sap your strength. Remember you’re still healing from a big injury. For me, I’ve ended up with a couple of colds and general tiredness for quite a while now and pushing harder doesn’t help. As I’ve said, listen to your body and play the long game.
  11. Be prepared for depression. Not necessarily the ‘whole world’s against me’ kind (although it might be) but longer term flatness and lack of enthusiasm. For me, not riding the whole summer, missing out on outdoor air and sunshine plus general tiredness and the knowledge that your mates are still riding has taken it’s toll, leaving me ill, unfit and fed up. Again, play the long game, beating it requires keeping a clear idea in your head of where you want to be and not being distracted by relatively small hurdles that get in the way. Don’t allow yourself to do stuff you don’t want but don’t let other easy excuses get in your way. Things like poor weather, wife has got used to you being around on Sundays, bike’s not quite right excuses don’t wash. Just do it.
  12. MTB Mojo—this is the hardest part of your recovery. Personally I’m not there yet. There are times when you start riding again that you find yourself just plain scared of hurting yourself again. Once you know what it involves you don’t want to experience it again. Besides, the definition of an idiot is someone who doesn’t learn from past mistakes. This is a tough one, you can’t just pick up where you left off but of course you know deep down that you can do it because you’ve done it before. For me, returning to riding in the autumn when everything is/was covered in slippery leaves and mud made it worse and there have been times when I’ve just wanted take up Tiddlywinks instead. You can’t force things and in my case I can’t shake the thought that my injury was stupendously close to a full on high–speed head–first disaster, in which case I might not be worrying about riding again at all. I’ve been really lucky and in those circumstances it’s best not to tweak the nose of danger again too soon. I know it will return but I’ll let it come to me rather than going looking for it.

So there’s my thoughts. Basically, the injury hurts and the sensation of muscles shortening, withering and cramping up through inactivity can be extremely uncomfortable, but your body will heal.

You can have it pinned or wait for nature and there’s pros and cons with either option which depending on the opinion and employer of who you’re talking to you won’t get. But basically people do want to help, so keep pushing for answers.

Watch out for the Armpit of Doom and accept that it takes time to recover from a big break. I never realised how much blood there is in bones for example which leads to bruising and swelling which can take weeks to dissipate.

Finally, let mountain biking come to you once you’ve recovered, don’t try and prove a point to yourself (or worse, others) but don’t use feeble excuses to stay away either.

For me, after six months, I think I’m starting to enjoy it again…


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

He rides a 2007 Orange Five and a Kona Big Unit 29er singlespeed, with an On-One Inbred in reserve. You can even find road bikes in his stable - a Specialized Secteur and a Trek District 1 so far.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

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  1. mike61 says:

    Matt, totally agree.

    I was out for a while with mtb induced broken ribs March–May of this year and both myself and buddies don’t think my fitness is yet back to normal.

    Point 12 is very true. Confidence returns but it is a frustrating wait.

  2. Matt says:

    Cheers Mike, it’s frustrating losing fitness you’ve worked hard to gain. Although you think you’ve still got it, it’s only after a couple of weeks you realise how far you have to go.

    Confidence is a long way behind but I was glad at how I rode BKB on Sunday’s year end ride so I hope I’m heading in the right direction.

  3. zeeyaa says:

    All what Matt has said is what I’m going through now. I broke my collarbone 3 weeks ago in car accident… its definetly not fun for the first 2 weeks…

  4. Jamie says:

    When I busted my arm I did a lot of time on the turbo. It’s difficult to get any exercise when you are busted up like that but even though a stationary bike is boring the exercise makes you feel better.

    My break looked like yours on the xray but it didn’t hurt as much and I was healed up in text book time, 6 weeks to drive a car, 12 weeks to ride a bike again.

  5. DaveH says:

    Great and very thorough blog post – and thanks for the comment on mine about my broken collarbone too in similar circumstances.

    Ironically the surgeon I first spoke to – a day after I broke mine – when I was still in a bit of a state and a good deal of pain – talked about how they might pin it. That made me optimistic – because having seen the x-ray I thought that there was no way it would heal itself in a decent way.

    I still think they made a bad call – mine’s a mess and although I can ride a bike I still feel like my movement’s impaired enough to never swim properly and lifting things above my head will be a long hard road.

    Pinning does have its own implications but I think that the current health system relies too much on surgeon / consultant motivation. What possible motivation could there be for a consultant to want to cut into me? As you point out, it represents problems of its own.

    I still can’t help but feel that I’d have been pinned if I’d somehow explained how important exercise is to me (to the overweight consultant!).

    Good to hear your tale of recovery though… hope our cycling paths cross one day.

  6. matty clark says:

    Hi thanks for taking the time to explain your ordeal i myself have broken the end of my collar bone when in affan on penheed final section about 4 weeks ago went to hospital in wales and they said it wasn’t bren so drove to work for a week and went to see a consultant in portsmouth who re-xrayed it and said it was broken. Iam trying to figure out when i can drive legally as its still 4 weeks till i see the consoltant.

  7. Andy C says:

    The issue of driving with a serious injury is more of an insurance problem. You will need to contact your insurance company, explain where you are in the treatment and what you can do, and get some confirmation in writing if they say you are ok to drive.

    I’ve just fractured my metacarpal (see “Andy’s hurt his hand”) and am in a plastic semi cast which prevents me gripping a wheel at the moment. As soon as this is removed I will be on to the insurance company, but it’s down to them if they say you are covered or not, and sadly I have yet to find any insurance company that likes to take a risk without a huge premium.

  8. Angela says:

    hi matt!!
    i realise this is a little old but i am so grateful to have found this blog! 🙂

    i have also fractured my right collarbone from driving into a tree.. it sounds funny but its not really in real life haha

    im just wondering when was there signs of healing shown on your xrays? with me its been 4 weeks and theres no patchment of the bones yet.
    my xray looks alot like yours. now the specialist ( 2 different ones) are suggesting that i get the surgery.
    my general doctor says to wait.
    if you could tell me when yours started to heal in the xray it will help me heapssss

    thankyou and i agree with all the above. lol thankfully it is winter here. theres no smelly armpits haha!

  9. paul901 says:

    Angela, each break seems to be different and the system is notorious for ambiguity. I think part of it is the uncertain nature of clavicle breaks and that 90% will heal without surgery but it takes several weeks to know. The medical world prefer not to elect for surgery straight away and monitor you instead unless it’s a bad break which they don’t believe will heal. In total it takes the body about 21 weeks apparently.

    In the case of my partner hers did not heal, our consultancy advice gave us too little information and after a month she was in the same amount of pain and had neck soreness presumed to be from trapped nerves. She was not getting the kind of natural recovery and trapezium support that some others are lucky enough to get. So we paid £200 for a private consultancy and could have paid £5000 for private surgery but were not happy to do so. 2cm of movement seemed to be the magic number and at the time of the accident it was less but by about 2 months it was 1.9cm. So her instincts were right the X-rays said so (we took screen prints on our camera phone each time) and at the point the hospital said it was borderline. She was adamant to the hospital team that she was in pain, that as a Mother she needed to be able to pick up her child, as a painter she needed full arm movement above the head and in general wanted full arm rotation swimming freestyle etc. She got upset in front of them and at that point they sought permission from the boss and then agreed to operate, thankfully it happened within the next month.

    She described the operation as a relief as the neck pain disappeared, the shoulder was supported, the shortening corrected and movement began to return properly. Yes, she had a scar she didn’t like, the clavicle line bulged a bit with the plate under the skin and she also had an area of skin surface with no feeling but she was glad she had taken the surgery. The plate continued to bother her and after another 3 months she had it removed and that was more relief.

    So, just another perspective as there doesn’t seem to be a universal answer. If you’re not happy with progress don’t let it go, persevere with what you think is right for you and hang in there through the misery of it if yours is a bad break!

  10. Angela says:

    hi Paul
    thank you for your input.. im wondering how she felt after the surgery?? was she in pain, could she sleep properly in bed?
    the thing with me is.. the pain seems to be subsiding but its not joined yet 🙁 its been 4.5 weeks almost.. i am just scared to go surgery… but hearing about your partner and how relieved she was i guess its not as frightening as i thought it would be.
    best wishes and thankyou again !

  11. paul901 says:

    Hi Angela, my good lady says that whilst she naturally felt nervous about surgery and knew she would have post-op pain for a few days these were less important than getting it sorted. Her father had serious cycling accidents in their native Colombia and said to her to get it done right from the start. Generally available information said don’t let it heal badly, you don’t want the tissue fusion if it’s not aligning properly. If I recall correctly, Amanda said surgery was the best thing for her too when she broke hers.

    Good luck with it, maybe Amanda will see this and post too.

  12. Angela says:

    hi Paul
    thank u so much again and to your lovely partner 🙂
    i have made an appointment for surgery next week… daunting but somewhat exciting as i know it will heal properly hehe

    thanks also Amanda!!

    best wishes

  13. David baker says:

    Hi everyone, I have read all your comments fascinated by how accurate they are.

    I am currently in week two post braking my RH clavicle as a result of riding recklessly down hill in the recent British snow. In my defence it was difficult in the flat light to see the ramp the kids had made which sent me over the handle bars.

    Having broken my clavicle before (childish motorcycle accident quite some time ago) I never get up from a tumble without the thought of a possible break! This one was particularly hard and fast so at first I was pleased only to have one brake!

    Because of the previous brake my collarbone broke in the 1st 1/3 medial, which means it broke at the sternum end. This I have found out is quite rare and leaves the medical proffessionals with a dilemma of how best to traet.
    My fist consultant with the fracture clinic after A&E just looked at the X-ray and diagnose natural healing even though through the pain of self examination I had expressed my alarm as to how high the sturnum join seems to be and the pressure it was applying to my neck/ wind pipe. I had no pain to breath in fact from my previous brake I was relatively pain free except from that nauseating feeling of bone on bone movement.

    Everyone I have spoken too has said expect a lump, I’ve had a lump for the passed 20 years from the last brake but I’m not happy about its direction and its likley hood of restricting movement in the future! I ride MTB/road and motorcycle, I also swim and run and was looking fwd to a year of triathlons. All of which I will need full range of movement in shoulder and the neck.

    Well that’s me, but my question is this, with only just over a weeks healing (going well) should I insist on seeing the consultant again early to talk about possible long term effects of just leaving it to heal naturally? Should I push for surgery if its even possible now I’ve started to heal? I’m not afraid of surgery if the outcome is that I can resume my sports.


    • Matt says:

      Wow, that’s a tough call!

      First off, bad luck breaking your collarbone, we’ve all been messing about in the snow recently and had our share of tumbles, fortunately without incident. If you have competitive plans it really is especially frustrating.

      I’m no medical expert but I’d say if you have concerns you really need to pursue them with your medical contacts, either through private health or the NHS.

      The problem is always to balance the risk of intervention versus the risk of doing nothing. It’s very hard for anyone, even professionals, to come to a firm decision over this – there’s so many variables – but as many different opinions as possible would help.

      I was lucky, in the end I have a full range of movement back, albeit with clicks in certain directions, after allowing it to heal naturally. Other friends have not been as lucky, requiring further surgery from injuries much closer to the shoulder joint.

      Good luck David, hope it works out OK and sorry I can’t help more really.

    • Dandy says:

      Bad luck, Dave. I would echo Matt’s comment. Medics often dismiss the need for full movement of joints by the general public, not expecting them to want to take part in the types of activities that readers of this forum often enjoy!

      I guess like many of us that you’re not the youngest guy on the block, which again colours the medics’ judgement further. Go and seek a second opinion immediately, and explain (if you haven’t already) that you need guaranteed full movement for the triathlons you regularly enjoy.

  14. Karen says:

    Broke my collarbone 8/23/14 surgery 8/29/14. Dr did not push for surgery. Pain was unbearable. Demoral was nectar from the gods but do yourself a favor, take miralax every day. Not a biker but am fitness instructor. It is like losing my right arm this thought that I should be teaching my classes but can’t drive till 10/10/14. Bobo!!! Did agree on suegery, turns out bones were shattered so I am plated and screwed, and not in the good way. Patience and 3 adorable grandchildren are getting me through but it ain’t cute. Thanks for the stories from other clavicle catastrophes. Will be diligent with therapy getting


    • Matt says:

      Hi Karen, sorry to hear about your break, it’s no fun being injured when you’re perfectly healthy but at least bones heal. It does get better but I remember the three week stage being quite frustrating as apart from being incapacitated you want to just get back to normal.

      Good luck with your recovery!

  15. Michele says:

    Hi Matt and everyone else, Like other have said, I’m really, really happy to have found this page! I came off my bike 8 weeks ago onto a nasty hard London road, and woke up in hospital hours later with a broken right clavicle and head fractures. I think I was really lucky to wake up at all actually, given the London traffic! Anyway, my clavicle fracture has a 1.6cm overlap, and it looks pretty much like yours in the picture Matt; actually it has looked the same for the last 8 weeks, and at my follow-up meeting with an orthopaedic consultant after yet another x-ray yesterday, he said that by now it should be showing signs of callus growth and healing and as it isn’t he asked me if I wanted to go down the route of surgery with plate and screws straight away.

    That’s really why I’ve ended up here, because having agreed to have it done because it was offered, and because a couple of people I know have said it’d be a good idea, I really don’t know if it’s the right thing to do at this stage. My shoulder and arm have been the main problem, and the clavicle break doesn’t seem to hurt much at all when pushed, or even when vibrated with a tuning fork!. The all-round pain in the area has got better week by week, but obviously at this stage I still can’t put my right arm across me, or behind me, or anywhere very high above me, and I’d like to know if I’ll be able to in the future? I did have lots of tension in my neck and where the spine goes into the skull – perhaps I have become more used to that now, or perhaps it’s easing with some help from a cranial osteopath who was recommended to me, and who was brilliant.

    I have a fairly active job involving follow-spotting with fairly large lamps, which means I do need to reach across myself with my right arm quite a lot to adjust things on the lamp whilst operating it; and I do usually cycle everywhere, though it may be a while yet before I do again.

    My question is, will surgery leave me worse off in the end or better off? And crucially, how soon after the surgery will I be able to do the job I’ve described, as I’ve had to turn down work over the last couple of months and I’ve been offered good work that’ll start 2½ weeks after the op. The consultant said I can do pretty much anything a couple of days after the op (including going away on holiday on a plane!), but I’m really not convinced about that, and I certainly won’t be trying any Ryanair flights any time soon.

    Also, how do the scars and the inserted stainless steel plates and screw turn out? I’m just pretty anxious generally about it now, and really would appreciate any advice.

    If you’re still reading Angela, I hope you’re doing well now after 2 years down the line, and thanks for your comments back to her paul901, I found them really interesting.

  16. Heather says:

    I had a major surgery on my shoulder, i was in a immobility for 6 months. I still have not got full range back and its been two years. Right after i got over the MTB i got on my ATV and had a bad accident with my dad, he got broken ribs, and I had hurt my shoulder once more and broke my wrist and got a concussion. He was driving but he still won’t allow me near an ATV. It is horrible not able to do something you love. I’ve got my fitness back but not the one thing I love.

  17. Ramesh says:

    Hi guys

    Can u believe a surgeon breaking his collar bone? Here I am. I am a child surgeon (not ortho). Being a doctor actually does nt help to decide better. Half my friends are ortho. Its interesting half say surgery. Half say wait.

    Mine is exactly like yours. Rt middle 1.8 cm displaced. As you say each case is different I suppose. There is no right and wrong or the best way to deal with it.

    I am 12 days post injury. Decided wait and watch approach over surgery. No pain at break but muscles cramps and soreness are really bothering. Moving position in bed or sofa is what makes the fragment move. I dont know how to control that. Also I am getting worried whether I will need operation after 4 wks of wait. Should I hv opted for early surgery to regain shoulder movements quickly? I will know only after 4 weeks.

    Doctors actually dont elaborate on what you will go thru. Your blog was really helpful. I hope I know when will it heal when can I drive and when can I get back to work.

    But its hard to be inactive and frustration/ depression is hard to tide over.

  18. Ramesh says:


    4 weeks over since I broke my rt collar bone and went down the conservative treatment. Better in several ways. Able to get up easier. Can sleep flat. Of sling. Bone ends sticky now not moving. Not paining when car goes over mumps. No need to splint and hold shoulder with opposite hand to do things. Able to eat with a spoon in right hand. Started going to work alternate days. However…

    Cant sit for more than 2 hours as all muscles start aching. Have to take a break, lay flat for 15 mt, then I can sit for another 2 hrs. I dont know why. May be the soft union between bone ends put to stress? And muscles cramp up to protect it?

    Xray wise no big change. They say it may take 12 wks to see proper bony union. But nowthat ends are sticky and soft union is there gentle shoulder physio has been started. In fact from third week isometric shoulder exercises and passive roations have been started. This has helped a lot in getting shoulder muscles back to work. Still elevation of arm above shoulder and weight bearing banned.

    I feel plate and screw fixation would have made my recovery faster and less painful. By now I would hv been able to sit for 6-8 hours? I suppose it may take another two months for that to happen with the current non operative management.

    Its scary when I read about shortening of collar bone altering shoulder mechanics. Plus there are concerns of malunion excess lump leading to compresssion of nerves all what not.

    I would recommend early fixation with plate and screw on day 1 if possible if you want swift recovery in 3-4 weeks for future netizens who end up breaking a collar bone.

    I will let you know how I have done after may be 4 more weeks.


  19. Ramesh says:

    Let me continue the story.

    I broke my right collarbone and 6 weeks down conservative treatment I was not able to sit for more than 3 hrs in a stretch due to nagging pain. Although I got full arm movements I could do all activities only for up to 3 hrs.

    So took a repeat x ray and also insisted on a CT scan. This time it was easier for the orthopod to make a decision. There was no callus formation and it was diagnosed as fibrous nonunion. It means ends of broken collarbone have closed off and a rubbor like fibrous tissue was holding it together. As it was not bony union I could not go on for more than 3 hrs. So it was decided to operate.

    The surgery took 3 hrs (simple plate and screw on first week would have been 1 hr surgery). The orthopod had to excise all fibrous tissue. There was some muscle interposition preventing union. The doctor had to remove all unwanted tissues, freshen the edges of the closed off collarbone ends, align them and put plate and screws. In addition a small bone graft was taken from arm to stimilate bone growth. Thats why it took 3 hrs.

    Now I am one week post surgery. I could lay flat on bed. I could sit for more than 4 hrs without dragging pain. I could eat and brush using right hand in one week (this was possible only 5 weeks after conservative treatment). I am sure in another week or two I will start exercises to regain muscle strength.

    So guys who are going to break collarbone dont worry about plate and screws. It takes a week to start arm movements and 2-4 to gain strength/ get back to work. Of course children are exception. They get better same time without surgery. But if you are above 25 yrs and going for non operative treatment, it still might unite (malunion is not an issue with collarbone) but it might well take 8 weeks and think whether you can take that much time off. Thinking back had I known this long I would have insisted on surgery first week itself.


  20. Lizzie says:


    This has been a great find as I lie here unable to sleep because of the pain in my left shoulder. I too have a broken clavicle. I came off my road bike on the 23rd November 2014. I was going pretty fast. I’m not sure what happened but my shoulder and helmet came off worst. My xray looks pretty much like Matts but I’ve also got a floaty bit.

    On the day of the accident, the A&E doctor said they wouldn’t operate and would leave it to heal on its own. Luckily I’m right handed so apart from extreme pain, not managing to sleep much, being constipated and overall grumpy, I could scoop my food and use the remote.

    I visited the orthopaedic doctor two weeks after my fall. I explained to him I worked in the public sector so was crucial I was able to regain full strength. He sent me away with some exercises and a new sling (just collar and cuff) and told me to come back in 4 weeks and he would see whether I needed surgery. Firstly, the new collar and cuff thingy was abandoned. I was in too much pain on the upper arm and shoulder as it gave no support whatsoever.

    Almost six weeks in, I’ve not taken a painkiller for a week and I haven’t worn my sling for over a week yet I still have pain. My sticky out collarbone hurts at times and it’s like there’s something jaggy in there. I think it’s the floaty bit bone. When I lie flat on the floor i feel a sharp pain on my left shoulder blade too. Having this injury sucks!!

    On the plus side, I’ve managed three upright short spins on the turbo. It’s not the same as being out there on the road or trails but at this moment, it’s the next best thing. I contemplated swimming, but everything I’ve read says no.

    I haven’t embraced driving yet so that’s my next goal. My range of movement is better but I can’t move my arm above or over my head. Oh the joys.

    Anyhoo, here’s hoping the doctor will xray me next week and shed some light on what the next plan of action is.

    Sorry if I’ve havered on folks but I’ve been awake for hours. It’s kept me occupied 🙂

  21. Lizzie says:

    Ps I’m tired but awake. Just to expand, I work in the emergency services so need full strength asap.

  22. Bob says:

    Thank you for this post, I am beginning week #3 and the insight is beneficial. Haven’t met with the Physical Therapist yet. The web is providing me with much better information than the Orthopedic clinic. They seem detached and are sluggish and unresponsive.

  23. Beth says:

    I hate this! I too am sat up in middle of the night unable to sleep because of pain, despite the fact I’ve taken tramodol!

    I only have a crack up by the shoulder end of clavicle. They said it was a clean crack and should heal quickly. It didn’t seem that bad, but had road rash that seemed more painful, but now that’s cleared up all I can feel is the shoulder. (I ran too fast down a hill in race and absolutely stacked it)

    Did anyone else get really weird pins and needles or goose bump sensations in their arm, hand and upper back? It seems to be getting worse and it’s been 16 days post accident. I have been keeping on top of pain relief and wearing my sling religiously but taking arm out and straightening every hour or so to keep the muscles moving. I took 6 days off work and then went in 4 days part time and now went back full time. It’s defiitely feels worse since, achier from leaning into the sling more I think and back pain from over compensating. How long in average did you guys take off work?

    I’m getting married in 8 weeks then disembarking on a 7 month adventure travelling in 12 weeks – I really want it to heal and trying to do everything I can to help it! Any advice appreciated?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Beth, sorry for the slow response and thanks for sharing your collarbone experiences. I was quite a long time off work as I couldn’t drive and had no public transport (plus being a web developer meant I couldn’t move the mouse or easily type so I wasn’t going to be productive anyway). The best advice for healing is time – every injury is unique and needs it’s own time to heal properly so don’t do too much too soon.

      For me, years after the incident, I will say I’ve made a good recovery. I didn’t really believe that until I went over the bars a year later with no adverse effects!

      These days, I do occasionally wake up with pain in the shoulder joint but it’s not a significant legacy. I hope you make/made a good recovery and congratulations on your wedding!

  24. Bill Cooper says:

    I’m 62, fractured my Right clavicle 3 weeks ago, have been doing physio since day2, and managed to chuck the sling away after 8 days, my advice do all the physio you can lay your arm on! first day back at work today – taking every opportunity to exercise it, ouch that itchy armpit of doom! – a damn good article, best tip – keep those fingers, the wrist and elbow moving as soon as possible as often as possible.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Bill, thanks for your comments. Sounds like you’ve had a very positive recovery if you were able to get rid of the sling so quickly.

      Completely agree about keeping things moving, it’s surprising how quickly things atrophy and that then forms part of the recovery as well so if you can avoid it, all the better.

      Sorry for the slow response as well.

  25. pauline says:

    broke my let collarbone 1st nov 2015 xrays show still not joining am getting some mobility back but the pain from shoulder down to elbow mainly in the bicep muscle unbearable after walking for about 15 mins not started physio yet tried swimming but hurts to much Dr not recomending surgery just wishthe pain would go away when walking anyone got any suggestions

    • Matt says:

      Pauline, sorry to hear your recovery has been so long, must have been a nasty break. If the ends are not joining then there’s not much you can do to stay active, but after 8 weeks plus I’d be looking for some clear answers from the bone specialists (I’m not medically qualified myself).

      Good luck and you have my sympathy!

    • Anita John says:

      Hi Pauline

      I finally had my collar bone pinned on 23/12 after first breaking it on 19th March 2015 in a skiing accident. After 3 months I was convinced it was healing but I still had pain on walking long distances & the X-rays showed a non-union. They recommended surgery but after 3 months I really didn’t want it – to be honest I thought it might make things worse. Although I was in occasional pain, couldn’t swim properly or cycle or play tennis I convinced myself it would get better with time. It didn’t & I finally opted for surgery. I’m two weeks in and typing this with two hands – but still don’t know if it’s going to heal. After coming round from the operation (which was fine!) my consultant told me my collarbone had shown absolutely no sign of healing and I still have a 10 to 15 % chance it won’t heal even with the op – some people are like that & unfortunately I seem to fall into that category. Only time will tell!

      Do your X-rays show signs of healing? After 9 months (before the op) I did feel a lot better & apparently a lot of people are happy to live like that with some pain & not doing much exercise. I need to exercise as I also have high blood pressure.

      I think like everyone has said here it takes time, it’s not easy and you finally have to decide what’s best for you & your lifestyle. It’s one of those”take stock of your life” moments & you have to be patient – although patient I know is the most frustrating thing in the world.

      Good luck with it – I hope it heals soon!

  26. Stuart Parsons says:

    Hey Matt,

    I thought you’d be all collarboned out by now, what with everyone’s stories! Hope not, as I have one to add to the list 😉

    I’m 40 years old and came off a motorbike two weeks ago with all the force transferring down my shoulder from where it hit the road (the bike was relatively unscathed). I went for my two-week x-ray today, but the doctor seemed not to be able to tell me anything beyond the fact that the bone “hasn’t moved”. From looking at the x-ray and also from what he said, although a clean break, the two sides of the break still seemed pretty much aligned immediately after impact (i e on the first x-ray I had two weeks ago). However he did say that the extent of this alignment could be misleading. In comparison to the picture of your own break you posted above, I would say that the two sides of my fracture look to be much more in line.

    He told me they couldn’t tell if any healing has taken place yet because I am, in his words “not that young” 😮😕😀

    I know you are not a medical professional but I value the opinion of someone who had similar problems. I suppose my biggest fear now is that I might not be able to return to the martial arts I was practicing; of course, I never would consider returning to it for a considerable amount of time even if I was sure things were going well with the bone.

    Your article is encouraging, though, so thanks for that.


    • Matt says:

      Hi Stuart, I have really enjoyed hearing from other people who have had the misfortune to break their collarbone. Everyone’s story is different and while you won’t die from the injury it can be extremely frustrating in terms of recovery.

      I broke my collarbone around the same age as you and found that keeping the broken ends reasonably in line helped the process, which makes sense.

      This did mean a long time relatively immobile though but as I work as a web developer and wouldn’t have been able to use the mouse anyway it just meant a lot of time off work and an understanding employer. We don’t all have that luxury.

      Once the process had kicked in though it healed pretty well and I don’t have any long term issues apart from an occasional painless click (and occasional night-time ache) and a lump where the bone healed. I realised things were OK after coming off the bike a year later and landing on that side again, without any further damage.

      Good luck with the recovery, the medics usually know what they’re doing but are not great at explaining things, so keep asking them questions!

  27. Dawn Tesarowski says:

    Two weeks after completing my first half marathon on my 55th birthday, I fell hard while running and broke a triangular chunk off the end of my right clavicle, as well as fracturing the coracoid process (I had to Google that one!!)My ortho said I needed surgery, but seeing as how this happened ten days before my daughter’s wedding, he set the surgery date for after the wedding. I managed with painkillers and a sling, sleeping upright and rearranging the pillows endlessly through the night.

    Surgery went well, and I used a sling for 6 weeks. I started physical therapy after 6 weeks, but it was very slow going. I had to wait six months before the ortho would remove the plate and screws, as the coracoid was quite fragile. I had the removal surgery and a manipulation 12 days ago and am now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but I still have a lot of p.t. ahead.

    The ortho told me it would be a yearlong recovery even though I did not believe him at first. The waiting to heal has been difficult. I started running (slow jogging, really) again as soon as I was out of the sling, but I’ve yet to get the okay to ride my bike from my physical therapist. I have been very diligent about doing my exercises as prescribed by my p.t.

    I could really relate to the points you made in your article. Thanks for listening…it’s been a long haul!! Looking forward to getting back on my bike and grateful for the excellent care I have received through both surgeries and from the physical therapist.

  28. Kiefer says:

    Hi. Great posts everybody. I broke my right clavicle skiing three weeks ago. Had surgery a few hours after accident. I now have a plate and sixteen screws. One main break and a number of small pieces. Even after surgery – have a few floating pieces.

    I have surprisingly good range of motion but it hurts constantly. Would have thought after three weeks pain would be better. Any info from those who had surgery about when pain goes away?


  29. Dan R says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the informative site, like most I found that my personal well being was greatly helped by shared knowledge and whilst the physicians have been great, they don’t have a great deal of time to provide you with explanations and details
    My story:
    I broke my collarbone (clavicle:-) whilst on a road bike during a training ride. Road was wet, hit a patch of diesel, went down front wheel first and landed 80% on the point of my shoulder hard!!!

    Knew instantly that it was broken, as I had the “arm across the stomach” classic pose:-). I was surprised just how obvious it was. Pain and shock followed and then movement was very painful. Luckily I was with friends so off to A and E.

    X-Ray’s showed middle third fracture with displacement. A and E was a bit confusing with lots of new terms (tenting/non-Union/displacement) but very little options. It was not life threatening (severe tenting/puncture) can be, so I was put in a makeshift sling and told to come back to fracture clinic later that week.

    At that appointment I had read up on the fracture, types and outcomes, and that info was invaluable. I was given the option of surgery or non-surgical and without research I don’t think I’d have been in a position to make an informed choice.

    I decided to go for surgery for personal reasons, and having seen the X-ray I couldn’t see how a union would occur, therefore the risk of shortening, loss of movement, nerve damage seemed high. Knowing all of the pros and cons was critical in making this decision.

    I also was aware that surgery was most likely to have the best outcome if undertaken at the right point in the bone healing process, 10-14 days.

    I was in the following Tuesday 10 days after the break. At this point I could use my arm quite a lot (lift above shoulder), did not have a great deal of pain, but had deformity, bone clicking and dull ache.

    I was in overnight, although you can be discharged the same day. The surgery went well, and apart from the usual discomfort with being cut and screwed, it wasn’t that painful. Pain was managed for the next 24 hrs, and I was discharged with some painkillers, although after 2-3 days I had stopped using them.

    After surgery I was informed that my fracture was worse than visible on the X-ray, was broken in 6 places, with a fragment sticking into the muscle. This made me glad I had the surgery, as it would have had to happen eventually anyway.

    Due to the break, the plate could only be fixed at the ends, meaning that I had to keep it more immobile than usual due to the risk of twisting and loosening the screws resulting in the plate being removed.

    So next was 2 weeks in the sling with no movement. Probably the hardest phase for me! Like you said, I’m not a smelly person lol, but the armpit of doom is horrible:-( Personal hygiene in general is really difficult, as is dressing and pretty much anything you take for granted. Having one useable hand is difficult, although with help, you do adapt. The next 2 weeks weren’t that painful, although lack of sleep due to not being able to sleep on anything but your back, was a real pain. I ended up getting up during the night lots, watching TV, and napping lots during the days. As others have said, sitting up with pillows is most comfortable.

    2 weeks after surgery, I had a review appointment and had the dressing and stitches removed. They were pleased with the wound healing and the stitches were like fishing wire, and came out with no pain and very little discomfort. The scar is thin, about 5-6 inches, and looks like it will fade.

    I was also told I would need my sling for a further 2 weeks, but I could start doing some light physio, pendulums, rotations etc, without weight bearing or resistance.

    It’s now a week later, I have had the sling off for periods which allow for washing (phew) and walking, some light movements, but no strength. I can feel the plate moving with my arm, and though the skin at the end nearest to my neck, but it isn’t visible externally. I do intend to get it removed as it is safer for future cycling, but I’m sure you don’t need to if you aren’t active.

    At this stage I do have a sharp pain in my forearm when I straighten it fully or extend my arm out and back, but I’m hoping this is muscular due to sling syndrome, and not a nerve issue. (It really does hurt!). If it doesn’t improve I’ll have to review my options. The.NHS were great throughout, every aspect was very efficient, but you do need to find information out yourself if you want to make the right choices. I did find that ultimately they present you with options rather than mandate a course of action, so information is key.

    I will update at week 4 X-ray, but hopefully I’m now in the road back.

    My advice, get good tyres:-) do research your options, listen to your body, rest and eat well.

    I hope this helps, will keep you posted. Good luck, keep riding/skiing or whatever crazy stuff you do 🙂

    • Matt says:

      Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to write up your experience. I get what you say about good tyres – prevention is always better than the cure!

      When I first lost the sling, which in my case was about 6 weeks after my break, the consultant said ‘now put your hand behind your back’. I couldn’t get anywhere near it!! The elbow had basically started to freeze up from being immobile for so long. Hopefully the discomfort you’re experiencing is a similar thing and it will go away as you get back to normal.

      Best wishes for your recovery, and hope you’re back riding soon.

  30. Kerri Wright says:

    I’d just like to say thank you for sharing your experience. I fractured my left clavicle skiing on 28 February 2016 and have just seen a consultant today. I opted to wait and see rather than surgery as I’m convinced it has improved over the past 5 days. The consultant really pushed the surgery option and was not very helpful on alternatives so reading about your experience has really helped me. Thanks again xxx

  31. Jill A says:

    Hi Matt and fellow collarbone breakers,
    Thank you so much for posting this.
    I have broken my left clavicle in a mtb wreck, going over a somewhat easy trail obstacle that I’ve successfully completed a few times before.
    I have found all this info extremely helpful. The break happened March 5, 2015. I see the ortho this Friday. My break looks like yours, Matt. I don’t want surgery but after reading some of the posts I’m leaning more that way.
    I have not had much pain with my break but I don’t like feeling the bones moving when I move my shoulder. I take my arm out of the sling at night and at times throughout the day.
    Since there is not much pain, just an ache every now and then I find myself not wanting to use the sling. It does help keep the bones closer together.
    Thank you all, again for sharing your experiences. It has been very helpful on my decision and knowing what to expect from the drs. I also appreciate the respect that has been shown/spoken for the medical personnel in these posts.
    I am not a dr, but a roofing contractor (3rd generation even tho I’m a female) and it is important for me to be able to climb a ladder ASAP.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Jill, as a roofing contractor you have a better head for heights that me then! Things get a bit ‘Wooo!’ for me when my wheels are six inches off the ground!

      How have things progressed? Did you opt for surgery in the end? It’s always the simple stuff that catches us out isn’t it?

      I think I may have opted for surgery if my occupation needed me back working ASAP. As it was, I had a lot of frustration personally but at no point did my employer give me any hassle which was hugely appreciated. Anybody who is self employed or runs their own business doesn’t have that luxury though and probably should at least look into medical insurance if they can afford to.

  32. François says:

    Hi Matt….on your long post you did not mention how long it did take for the first CAL to touch the 2 bones and how long did it take for ”consolider”the 2 bones……(in weeks.)

    at the end it has 70 to 80% or 100 % of bone to each ends of the bones together.

    like other’s i had that same sort of fracture

    I am at the 7 weeks marks….and at the end of the 2 bones …. there are not much ”thing” that i can see on the XRAYS……but when i touch my collarbone…i dont feel the separation at each end !!!! ( but here is one on the XRAYS………)

    if i press each of the 2 collarbones end .it dont hurt!!!!!

    i have full motion of my arm……….

    the XRAYS and my body are contradictory.

    for next meeting………
    My orthopedist said if i have no much stuff at the ends of my bones…he will suggest surgery.

    i live alone…NO HELP…it is almost impossible to manage the collarbone fracture alone.

    after 8 weeks or 9…. i dont want to start all over : the pain, one hand to do all stuff, and it is my working hand side collarbone that where is the ingery.

    thanks for your answer


    • Matt says:

      Hi Frank, sounds like you’ve had a frustrating time. At least you are not in direct pain from what I understand.

      If your doctor think it needs surgery I think after 7 weeks I’d be inclined to go with it. 7 weeks without obvious healing is a long time although it could be a case of the X-rays not showing what’s going on. You got this far and once the injury is plated then the recovery should be quicker but as I say, I’d listen to the doctor.

      As always, good luck!

  33. Jane says:

    Hi guys, have appreciated reading all your comments. Broke my left clavicle five weeks ago doing a prat fall over some planks the builders had left lying around! Very dull. Went to A&E next morning, yep, bone broken in two places but a clean break, membrane not damaged. Basic sling put on by nice lady who thought I was a proper wuss because I grumbled a bit when she kept moving my shoulder. Back to hospital a week later to see the surgeon, fit note (aka sick note) for another four weeks and a proper shoulder immobiliser issued. Off pain killers after ten days. Back to see surgeon last week, bone ends have knitted, and I nagged and fussed until he said I could get back to work tomorrow (weighbridge operator, nothing strenuous) because being stuck at home was driving me stir crazy. After 5 weeks I can move my arm to shoulder height, and behind my back, but won’t be doing handstands any time soon, lol. I am 60 years old, so I just thought I would share this for the benefit of older people who might be wondering. Toothache and sciatica hurt far more by the way! Thanks x

  34. Shaun says:

    Hi Matt
    On a bike ride, 23 miles in, clipped a guys tyre, over the handlebars I went. All I remember is my helmet hitting the road and the noise of the helmet grinding on the road until I stopped sliding. I remember talking to a few members of the club about how they broke their collar bones. As I sat in the road I reached up and felt mine completely broke. Then it dawned on me I couldn’t breathe. People were asking me if I was ok, I couldn’t take in enough breath to answer and every small breathe I took made me groan in pain. Cars were stopping and there was now a crowd. One lady walked up saying she was a nurse and she would take me to hospital, the nearest being Nuneaton. On the journey to the hospital I went into shock, I thought I was going to die. She kept me calm and stopped me panicking. I never opened my eyes, just moaned at every corner and gear change. I never looked at the car, or the the lady and I never spoke to her. I have no idea who she was, this has caused me upset because I feel I owe her so much.

    I’d punctured my lung, broke 4 ribs and my collar bone. I was in hospital 5 days.

    My collar bone needed an operation and was trying to poke through my skin. The operation has to wait 2 weeks for my lung to heal so home I went.
    I’ve now had a plate fitted to my clavicle and 4 more days in hospital due to poss complications with my lung.

    I have to say, yes, the clavicle did hurt and I agree toothache is worse, but the broken ribs pain was far worse. Sitting, laying down, breathing and moving all hurt. If I coughed, laughed or sneezes the pain was unreal, just a hiccup bent me over in pain. At first I had to have morphine just to breathe and speak.

    I have to say I did suffer with constipation, that was very painful as well.

    Breaking my clavicle has stopped me doing so much, my life has been put on hold. So many things I can’t do. I’m an outgoing fit person and after a while realised I was also suffering from depression.

    7 weeks after accident, 4 weeks after operation I’m sat at home with pain in my elbow and shoulder doing physio.

  35. Shaun says:

    Oh yea, I had the armpit of doom too.

  36. mereana says:

    Hi I broke my right clavicle over a year ago and just like yours, about 4 weeks later I told the doc it didn’t feel right.he said it was healing great. I then got pregnant 2 weeks later. I had another x Ray recently and it showed there is cartilage growth between the bones and it’s been giving me hell, the doc said because of the pregnancy my bones couldnt nit back together. Since then the pain is getting worse, I don’t have surgery for 2 more months. I could be at work but I ride horses for a living and I simply can’t because of this injury.what can I do to get the surgery earlier as I nearly dropped my baby last night after his bath.

  37. Amanda says:

    Hi Matt
    Just like everyone else I have to say thank you for your blog. I broke my left clavicle along with 4 ribs and had to have a chest drain due to broken ribs causing a pneumothorax, I also had a head injury so have no idea what actually happened! I know I was out training for a triathlon on my first bike ride for months, we think I hit a pot hole which caused a 3 inch ish blow out on my front tyre. After 6 days in hospital I was discharged with lots of painkillers. At my first appt was told they couldn’t operate on my clavicle because of the risk of anaesthetic with my lung damage so I would have to take the wait and see option. At 3 weeks post accident X-ray showed no obvious bone growth. I’m now just over 4 weeks post accident and have just stopped using the sling most of the time as I can’t cope with it anymore. Much like some of the others I can only walk/stand/sit for a limited amount of time before the pain gets just too much and I’m puffing and blowing just doing the smallest of things. I’m a swimming teacher so I’m off work and suspect l may be for some time, I’m not allowed to move my arm more than about 45degrees from my side for another week or so and to be honest I wouldn’t want to! any movement like that is way too painful. My worry is that when I go back in a couple of weeks the bone won’t have fixed. I think I can still feel small amounts of bone movement when I move my arm but these aren’t particularly painful so I am praying the ends of the bone havent closed over like some of the others in this thread. How long was it before you could drive? I haven’t had any physio yet but was supposed to have been referred after my last appointment.

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