Home

Broke my collarbone quite badly 8 weeks ago coming off at speed, so I had a fixing plate put in but soonest they could do was 13 days later (a painful wait). Now at 6 weeks after the operation the xray showed no sign of the bones joining up again (yet). So I have to wait and see in another 6 weeks time. Turbo training attractions are starting to fade....

 I'm in my 50's if that relevant.

Grateful to hear has anybody any experience of their clavicle bones taking a long long time to reunite or even not at all (in which case what can you do?).

BTW, helmet written off but did its job. Dread to think if it hadnt been on.

24 comments

Avatar
Vejnemojnen [284 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

are the fractured ends placed in proximity with each other? They should not touch, a tiny gap should be more than enough. Why aren't they used an elastic nail put inside the drilled bone? That method has a very rapid recovery time. I was cycling 1.5 weeks after my clavicular fracture.

 

I'd ask the operator, surgeon what could be the cause of it..

Avatar
Rod Marton [107 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Having broken three collarbones (OK, one twice) all I can say was that healing time is very variable, and depends very much on how it was broken. If you had a plate put in your break was probably worse than any of mine. Shortest time off the bike for me was three weeks, longest eight (and that was against medical advice: I was just fed up with not being allowed to ride). So, extrapolating, 12 weeks probably isn't unreasonable as a minimum for your break and I think you will just have to wait a bit longer.

Having said that, I always find medical recommendations rather conservative on estimated healing times. I'm sure they have to be to cover themselves, and remember that hospitals spend most of their time dealing with ill people rather than fit cyclists. So although I wouldn't recommend going against medical advice, fundamentally you have you make your own judgement about when you feel you are ready.

Avatar
harragan [241 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

As said above, it really depends on the damage and, in my experience, where on the bone.  I broke my collar bone right at the shoulder.  Less usual, but not unheard of, by any means.  After regular x-rays over almost a year, there is no evidence that the bones have joined but I am pain-free and have pretty good movement.  I still have a boney lump, which is never likely to go down.  

It took many weeks for the pain to subside and many more to be pain-free.  I had the option for surgery but the consultant was reluctant to do it as everything was (slowly) improving.

This is probably no great help but was my experience.

Avatar
Leeroy_Silk [171 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Take a look at the case studies detailed on this Website, might be worth making contact if your issue persists.

https://www.physioclinic.net/

Brian Simpson is well known in the world of healing bones quickly. Ever wondered how certain sportsmen and women (usually motorcycle racers) can break a bone and race the next weekend? Brian’s usually who they see. 

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Vejnemojnen wrote:

are the fractured ends placed in proximity with each other? They should not touch, a tiny gap should be more than enough. Why aren't they used an elastic nail put inside the drilled bone? That method has a very rapid recovery time. I was cycling 1.5 weeks after my clavicular fracture.

 

I'd ask the operator, surgeon what could be the cause of it..

 

Thanks - the ends were aligned but I dont think the gap was "tiny". I'm not sure the NHS where I live has heard of elasic nails. Will be sure to ask next time I am the hospital.

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Rod Marton wrote:

Having broken three collarbones (OK, one twice) all I can say was that healing time is very variable, and depends very much on how it was broken. If you had a plate put in your break was probably worse than any of mine. Shortest time off the bike for me was three weeks, longest eight (and that was against medical advice: I was just fed up with not being allowed to ride). So, extrapolating, 12 weeks probably isn't unreasonable as a minimum for your break and I think you will just have to wait a bit longer.

Having said that, I always find medical recommendations rather conservative on estimated healing times. I'm sure they have to be to cover themselves, and remember that hospitals spend most of their time dealing with ill people rather than fit cyclists. So although I wouldn't recommend going against medical advice, fundamentally you have you make your own judgement about when you feel you are ready.

 

Thanks Rod - I've got the same impression that the doctors (never the same one twice) I've seen are all erring on the conservative side and definitely dont run/ride themselves. Its a bit tricky to go against their advice particularly as my wife's medical and is also urging patience.

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Leeroy_Silk wrote:

Take a look at the case studies detailed on this Website, might be worth making contact if your issue persists.

https://www.physioclinic.net/

Brian Simpson is well known in the world of healing bones quickly. Ever wondered how certain sportsmen and women (usually motorcycle racers) can break a bone and race the next weekend? Brian’s usually who they see. 

Impressice case studies. Wish I lived a bit nearer to Ipswich, but if I'm still getting nowhere down the line definitely worth knowing about - thanks.

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
harragan wrote:

As said above, it really depends on the damage and, in my experience, where on the bone.  I broke my collar bone right at the shoulder.  Less usual, but not unheard of, by any means.  After regular x-rays over almost a year, there is no evidence that the bones have joined but I am pain-free and have pretty good movement.  I still have a boney lump, which is never likely to go down.  

It took many weeks for the pain to subside and many more to be pain-free.  I had the option for surgery but the consultant was reluctant to do it as everything was (slowly) improving.

This is probably no great help but was my experience.

It is actually very encouraging to know you're carrying on pretty much as normal (and presumably still riding?) with a non-union after that long.  At what point did the medics say you could resume riding, assuming they did?

Avatar
willsdad [16 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

The healing times can vary from person to person. Whether you are a cyclist or not may have less bearing on the healing than you think. As a relatively low load bearing bone the clavicle may take a while longer to heal as bone deposition is dependent on this (Wolfs Law, I think). The plate is used to approximate the bones and micro movement stimulates the healing. 

Depending on your build, metabolism, bone density and age healing times can be variable. The venerable Mr Boardman is known have osteoporosis as a result of trying to keep his weight low for cycling, he probably wont heal as quick as expected based on this.

If the bone doesnt heal you may get a fibrous union, as opposed to a bony one. This is often seen in jockeys as it offers an advantage for repeated falls. The fibrous "hinge" allows an extra degree of flexibility and resistence to repeated impacts. This would not show on an x-ray as it is not as dense as bone. Ask your surgeon.

There is also a bone stimulator they can obtain, but I cant recall the name. Looks like a TENS machine used for pain relief but stimulates bone healing and comes with a money back guarentee if I recall.

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
willsdad wrote:

The healing times can vary from person to person. Whether you are a cyclist or not may have less bearing on the healing than you think. As a relatively low load bearing bone the clavicle may take a while longer to heal as bone deposition is dependent on this (Wolfs Law, I think). The plate is used to approximate the bones and micro movement stimulates the healing. 

Depending on your build, metabolism, bone density and age healing times can be variable. The venerable Mr Boardman is known have osteoporosis as a result of trying to keep his weight low for cycling, he probably wont heal as quick as expected based on this.

If the bone doesnt heal you may get a fibrous union, as opposed to a bony one. This is often seen in jockeys as it offers an advantage for repeated falls. The fibrous "hinge" allows an extra degree of flexibility and resistence to repeated impacts. This would not show on an x-ray as it is not as dense as bone. Ask your surgeon.

There is also a bone stimulator they can obtain, but I cant recall the name. Looks like a TENS machine used for pain relief but stimulates bone healing and comes with a money back guarentee if I recall.

Thats really interesting thank you Willsdad - I will definitely use this info when next seen by the dcotor.

I'm now wondering whether gentle jogging might actually be beneficial to healing in terms of Wolffs Law and stimulating the bones. The doctor (registrar not consultant) I saw last week initially said gentle jogging might be Ok but not competitive running. When I tried to clarify what the difference was he went all vague/defensive and frustratingly reverted to better avoid outdoor exercise altogether.

Avatar
IanEdward [196 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

This is all depressingly relevant, I'm almost four weeks into my healing after breaking my clavicle near the shoulder when I hit a speedbump I hadn't seen (in my defence it was unmarked, unsigned and in the shade of a tree).

Mine has never been very uncomfortable and I've retained a lot of function in the affected arm, but my most recent X-Ray barely looked any different from the 1 week X-RAy, and the consultant mentioned there wasn't as much callous formation as he would have liked to see.

The first consultant I saw was quite blase about offering surgery, and my physio (deals with a lot of rugby players) seemed to think it would be worthwhile. I'm now of the same mind as I didn't like the look of how the bones were overlapping, and I would rather everything healed with good alignment. Waiting to hear back from them today.

 

On the plus side I'm two sessions in on my cheap turbo trainer, one session with just my headphones for company, and one with a GCN video. They've both been brutal workouts and I can't help but thinking I could come out of my broken collarbone fitter than when I went in!

Avatar
john59 [1 post] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

 Have had broken femur, smashed and dislocated elbow and collar bone which was most recent break. Luckily it was not displaced and in three weeks i could ride Mountain Bike on road but not pull on bars - in 5 weeks I was surfing with my kids (in a lot of pain). To qualify for a plate your break must have been pretty bad so it will take time - you're over 50 (so was  28 which will slow things down as well. My advice based on my experience of fractures is to do what you're advised to do and not much point comparing your experience with anyone elses as all trauma is different and healing times are as well. The only comments on this site you might want to take notice of are ones from a qualified orthapedic surgeon - who will probably tell you the things I have based on my fracture experience.

Avatar
willsdad [16 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like
john59 wrote:

 Have had broken femur, smashed and dislocated elbow and collar bone which was most recent break. Luckily it was not displaced and in three weeks i could ride Mountain Bike on road but not pull on bars - in 5 weeks I was surfing with my kids (in a lot of pain). To qualify for a plate your break must have been pretty bad so it will take time - you're over 50 (so was  28 which will slow things down as well. My advice based on my experience of fractures is to do what you're advised to do and not much point comparing your experience with anyone elses as all trauma is different and healing times are as well. The only comments on this site you might want to take notice of are ones from a qualified orthapedic surgeon - who will probably tell you the things I have based on my fracture experience.

I too would always look for a qualified opinion as you suggest. Interestingly, once the plate is in the surgeons tend to lose interest. My background is 20 years of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, so hopefully, I can address the concerns of fellow cyclists in a way that is indicative of what can be done, not what should be done.

Internal fixation used to be used for the most severe injuries, especially those who require displaced bones to be held together. Now the case is that it reduces healing times and we can avoid deconditioning and engage more readily in rehabilitation. And also the wrong way where you need a new set of dentures ala Tyler Hamilton.

 

Avatar
willsdad [16 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like
bah17 wrote:
willsdad wrote:

The healing times can vary from person to person. Whether you are a cyclist or not may have less bearing on the healing than you think. As a relatively low load bearing bone the clavicle may take a while longer to heal as bone deposition is dependent on this (Wolfs Law, I think). The plate is used to approximate the bones and micro movement stimulates the healing. 

Depending on your build, metabolism, bone density and age healing times can be variable. The venerable Mr Boardman is known have osteoporosis as a result of trying to keep his weight low for cycling, he probably wont heal as quick as expected based on this.

If the bone doesnt heal you may get a fibrous union, as opposed to a bony one. This is often seen in jockeys as it offers an advantage for repeated falls. The fibrous "hinge" allows an extra degree of flexibility and resistence to repeated impacts. This would not show on an x-ray as it is not as dense as bone. Ask your surgeon.

There is also a bone stimulator they can obtain, but I cant recall the name. Looks like a TENS machine used for pain relief but stimulates bone healing and comes with a money back guarentee if I recall.

Thats really interesting thank you Willsdad - I will definitely use this info when next seen by the dcotor.

I'm now wondering whether gentle jogging might actually be beneficial to healing in terms of Wolffs Law and stimulating the bones. The doctor (registrar not consultant) I saw last week initially said gentle jogging might be Ok but not competitive running. When I tried to clarify what the difference was he went all vague/defensive and frustratingly reverted to better avoid outdoor exercise altogether.

Any impact activity can stimulate the bones even jumping up and down like skipping without a rope. Jogging and running are one and the same in my mind just a little less speed. But that is neither here nor there for your intended purpose. the impact will stimulate the bones as will resistance training.

Maybe warm up with a jog and then work on key muscle groups for cycling. The load from weigh training will help with bone density too.

 

Avatar
willsdad [16 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
bah17 wrote:
willsdad wrote:

The healing times can vary from person to person. Whether you are a cyclist or not may have less bearing on the healing than you think. As a relatively low load bearing bone the clavicle may take a while longer to heal as bone deposition is dependent on this (Wolfs Law, I think). The plate is used to approximate the bones and micro movement stimulates the healing. 

Depending on your build, metabolism, bone density and age healing times can be variable. The venerable Mr Boardman is known have osteoporosis as a result of trying to keep his weight low for cycling, he probably wont heal as quick as expected based on this.

If the bone doesnt heal you may get a fibrous union, as opposed to a bony one. This is often seen in jockeys as it offers an advantage for repeated falls. The fibrous "hinge" allows an extra degree of flexibility and resistence to repeated impacts. This would not show on an x-ray as it is not as dense as bone. Ask your surgeon.

There is also a bone stimulator they can obtain, but I cant recall the name. Looks like a TENS machine used for pain relief but stimulates bone healing and comes with a money back guarentee if I recall.

Thats really interesting thank you Willsdad - I will definitely use this info when next seen by the dcotor.

I'm now wondering whether gentle jogging might actually be beneficial to healing in terms of Wolffs Law and stimulating the bones. The doctor (registrar not consultant) I saw last week initially said gentle jogging might be Ok but not competitive running. When I tried to clarify what the difference was he went all vague/defensive and frustratingly reverted to better avoid outdoor exercise altogether.

Any impact activity can stimulate the bones even jumping up and down like skipping without a rope. Jogging and running are one and the same in my mind just a little less speed. But that is neither here nor there for your intended purpose. the impact will stimulate the bones as will resistance training.

Maybe warm up with a jog and then work on key muscle groups for cycling. The load from weigh training will help with bone density too.

 

Avatar
Nichola [6 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Impressice case studies. Wish I lived a bit nearer to Ipswich, but if I'm still getting nowhere down the line definitely worth knowing about - thanks.

Avatar
harragan [241 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like
bah17 wrote:
harragan wrote:

As said above, it really depends on the damage and, in my experience, where on the bone.  I broke my collar bone right at the shoulder.  Less usual, but not unheard of, by any means.  After regular x-rays over almost a year, there is no evidence that the bones have joined but I am pain-free and have pretty good movement.  I still have a boney lump, which is never likely to go down.  

It took many weeks for the pain to subside and many more to be pain-free.  I had the option for surgery but the consultant was reluctant to do it as everything was (slowly) improving.

This is probably no great help but was my experience.

It is actually very encouraging to know you're carrying on pretty much as normal (and presumably still riding?) with a non-union after that long.  At what point did the medics say you could resume riding, assuming they did?

I continue to ride and the consultant pretty much left it up to me to decide when to get back in the saddle.  It was probably about three months and when I could support myself without too much discomfort.  

Supporting myself was never really the issue.  six months after the accident, I was on holiday and went to swim for the first time.  That was uncomfortable and not a pleasant experience.  That was all about three years ago and swimming doesn't hurt anymore.

 

 

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 2 weeks ago
2 likes
IanEdward wrote:

This is all depressingly relevant, I'm almost four weeks into my healing after breaking my clavicle near the shoulder when I hit a speedbump I hadn't seen (in my defence it was unmarked, unsigned and in the shade of a tree).

Mine has never been very uncomfortable and I've retained a lot of function in the affected arm, but my most recent X-Ray barely looked any different from the 1 week X-RAy, and the consultant mentioned there wasn't as much callous formation as he would have liked to see.

The first consultant I saw was quite blase about offering surgery, and my physio (deals with a lot of rugby players) seemed to think it would be worthwhile. I'm now of the same mind as I didn't like the look of how the bones were overlapping, and I would rather everything healed with good alignment. Waiting to hear back from them today.

 

On the plus side I'm two sessions in on my cheap turbo trainer, one session with just my headphones for company, and one with a GCN video. They've both been brutal workouts and I can't help but thinking I could come out of my broken collarbone fitter than when I went in!

In weighing up whether to have a plate in or not hopefully it was brought to your attention that nerves most likely will have to be cut to get the plate in. For me, this gave loss of normal sensation across my whole pec area from top of arm to middle of chest. It is slowly improving but may not normalise ever. Just one downside to consider.

Avatar
IanEdward [196 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

Thanks, it wasn't brought to my attention to be honest!

However, despite me talking myself round to it (didn't like the prospect of future complications/misalignment of shoulder etc.) the consultant finally took a decision themselves and decided it wasn't worth it for me and that healing naturally would be fine.

It almost feels like this has forced me to pull my socks up and get on with it, as I'm already feeling more improvement, can hold handlebars (on the turbo trainer) if I engage the right muscles in the shoulder to protect the collarbone. Obviously this isn't a long term solution so I'll continue with one handed turbo-training for another 3 or 4 weeks. Actually the turbo training is going so well I honestly think I'll come out of the whole thing a bit fitter...

Anyway, hope you're feeling improvements!

Avatar
alex1987 [2 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I'll admit to not having read the whole thread so I can't quite jump in as such, but here's my experience.

My break was pretty clean and not displaced (ie, no plates/nails etc, just a sling). After 6 weeks I was given the green light but I obviously needed more since it (loudly!) cracked again by just moving the shoulder in one crisp movement taking a shot during a 5 a side.

Long story short, I guess the 6 weeks is a guideline but can easily take longer, and perhaps acting extra carefully after the green light might be worth it! If a plate has been put in place I can imagine it might be slightly worse than my case anyway, so not unreasonable.

Of course other things such diet, smoking (I was told smoking has a very direct inpact on bone healing, which led me to completely quit out of frustration after the second break!), calcium and vitamin D intake etc do have an impact, as well as general phisiology and genes.

Avatar
bah17 [8 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
IanEdward wrote:

Thanks, it wasn't brought to my attention to be honest!

However, despite me talking myself round to it (didn't like the prospect of future complications/misalignment of shoulder etc.) the consultant finally took a decision themselves and decided it wasn't worth it for me and that healing naturally would be fine.

It almost feels like this has forced me to pull my socks up and get on with it, as I'm already feeling more improvement, can hold handlebars (on the turbo trainer) if I engage the right muscles in the shoulder to protect the collarbone. Obviously this isn't a long term solution so I'll continue with one handed turbo-training for another 3 or 4 weeks. Actually the turbo training is going so well I honestly think I'll come out of the whole thing a bit fitter...

Anyway, hope you're feeling improvements!

Thanks Ian, give it another month or two and I suspect you might be glad of not having a plate in. I'm now 8 weeks after surgery (10 after the break) and just starting running again but not riding outdoors. Pretty good movement, but very plausible physio (first seen start of this week) advised me not to rush into any strength work (muscles are visibly smaller than on the good side). Its just heavy lifting I can't do in the house/garden but otherwise broadly back to normal (apart from the scar and some residual loss of skin sensation).  Just have to wait almost 4 weeks for next xray.

Avatar
benborp [15 posts] 2 weeks ago
2 likes

I think I've had five collar bone breaks. The two most complex were complete opposites in terms of treatment and outcome. The first of these proved to be a non-union that took an awful lot of effort on my part to have properly diagnosed. Through the three years that I was struggling with it I was able to maintain function, strength and mobility to the extent that I could hold down very physically demanding jobs and still perform backflips - but towards the end of that period I required intensive physio to keep functioning and counter the effects of the imbalances that the injury caused - periodically losing the vision in one eye was one of the more bizarre effects. Just prior to getting a referral for surgery my physio was of the opinion that further physio treatment was becoming pointless in terms of maintaining function. The pain was becoming disruptive too. Surgery was too late to save the bone so the lateral end of the collarbone was removed, the shoulder blade reshaped and an artificial ligament used to bridge the gap. I would say function and strength have continued to improve with physio work over the twelve years since. Mobility is an issue in that there is too much movement throughout the shoulder and muscles that now stabilise the shoulder cause problems with supporting my head. The replacement ligament has now exceeded its expected useful life. Hopefully physio will keep everything moderately balanced and the shoulder functioning a while longer.

The other significant break came later on the other side. I think the bone was in five pieces and I was given the choice of whether to have it plated or not. I opted for the plate, but due to the timing of the injury and spacing of the fracture clinics it was a while before surgery could be scheduled. During surgery it was found that the bones had fused quite strongly but with considerable overlap which would impair function and increase the imbalance I suffered with the injury on the other side. It was much better to have discovered this earlier rather than later. About a year later I had the metalwork removed as it was very prominent and could be very painful in the wrong circumstances. It was only after the plate was removed that I realised it had also been causing chronic pain. Nerve damage after both procedures was a minor discomfort. The whole experience was a minor inconvenience mainly because I stayed under the care of one surgical team.

The second of these two injuries was much less disruptive and much easier to deal with.

Physiotherapists were invaluable for navigating my way through the difficulties of the first break - surgical intervention was only about a quarter of the story. Unless I became resigned to a sedentary lifestyle non-union was a huge threat to my well-being.

If non-union is a risk for you I would recommend having a solid relationship with a physiotherapist monitoring your progress. Hopefully you are receiving good physio support post surgery. If that is not the case a private physio is a very good investment. The fact that you are already under the care of a surgeon should mean that you have much less to worry about - the surgeon is invested in you having a good outcome, if you encounter any difficulties you are already being supported by that apparatus and won't waste valuable time looking for a referral or waiting months to join another surgeon's list. The body may take its time healing and there isn't a huge amount that you can do to change that but you do have people standing-by to intervene if there is no improvement. Just make sure you are not signed off from the fracture clinic unless you are satisfied that all is well.

 

Avatar
Georgeraleigh [1 post] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
bah17 wrote:
IanEdward wrote:

This is all depressingly relevant, I'm almost four weeks into my healing after breaking my clavicle near the shoulder when I hit a speedbump I hadn't seen (in my defence it was unmarked, unsigned and in the shade of a tree).

Mine has never been very uncomfortable and I've retained a lot of function in the affected arm, but my most recent X-Ray barely looked any different from the 1 week X-RAy, and the consultant mentioned there wasn't as much callous formation as he would have liked to see.

The first consultant I saw was quite blase about offering surgery, and my physio (deals with a lot of rugby players) seemed to think it would be worthwhile. I'm now of the same mind as I didn't like the look of how the bones were overlapping, and I would rather everything healed with good alignment. Waiting to hear back from them today.

 

On the plus side I'm two sessions in on my cheap turbo trainer, one session with just my headphones for company, and one with a GCN video. They've both been brutal workouts and I can't help but thinking I could come out of my broken collarbone fitter than when I went in!

In weighing up whether to have a plate in or not hopefully it was brought to your attention that nerves most likely will have to be cut to get the plate in. For me, this gave loss of normal sensation across my whole pec area from top of arm to middle of chest. It is slowly improving but may not normalise ever. Just one downside to consider.

Blimey Ian thats exactly how i did mine along with the scapula and 2 ribs. Hoping to mine plated in a couple of weeks I've been waiting 3 weeks now. Being 53 I'm hoping for a good result. I've got pretty good movement now but some pain.

Avatar
IanEdward [196 posts] 3 days ago
0 likes

How's everyone doing with their various broken bits?

I'm about 7 weeks in now, healing seemed to be going OK, but in the last two weeks or so it seems to have taken a step backwards, there is a new and very sharp pain occuring at the back of the collarbone, right at the top of the shoulder blade. If I poke around where the pain is I can definitely feel something 'loose' that sort of slides back and forth. Feels like it is at the edge of where the break occurred.

Worried I might have been using the arm too much, trying to help wife out with the baby and a couple of days driving to meetings that I couldn't practically use public transport for.

Have another follow up on Tuesday, if X-Ray doesn't show good bone growth I think I'll be (respectfully) demanding surgery. I wouldn't mind a slow healing process if I KNEW it was healing properly, currently it doesn't feel like it's healing properly.