On August 7 I took my niece’s 100-pound golden retriever, Bogie, for a walk. Bogie’s as gentle and mellow as one would expect a ten-year-old dog to be. This time was different, though. He saw a rabbit and launched after it as quickly as his large muscles could propel him.
He jerked the leash so hard I went airborne. From the tug, I suffered separation at the right shoulder. When I landed, almost on my head, I broke my clavicle.
This is a painful, slow-healing break. At three weeks into the healing process, I noticed little decrease in the pain level. Sleeping was torture if I moved in any way beyond laying flat on my back. Getting out of bed, indeed, movement of any sort was painful, even with the considerably strong pain meds.
Here, then, are my top ten tips for survival during the healing process of this difficult break.
10. Don’t go off the pain meds before scheduled. I didn’t like the woozy, out-of-it feeling so I thought I could go off the meds. It was agony. Don’t do it. And don’t accept offers from well-meaning relatives to try their meds! Follow the doctor’s recommendations.
9. Go sleeveless and strapless. Women, get very loosely knit sleeveless tops with stretch lace straps. The looser the better. In the first few days, any movement was torture, and if I could slip the tops on from over the hips instead of over the head, it was much less painful those first three weeks. This loosely woven, sleeveless top worked great with a strapless bra to alleviate any strain to the bones and bruises. Men, go to a bigger size on the undershirts, and putting on standard shirts should be fairly easy.
8. Use ice packs often. Avoid frostbite, of course, but cooling the area helps lessen the pain.
7. Lie down regularly on your back. It relieves the strain because your muscles will be seizing, trying to protect the area. Ten to fifteen minutes makes a big difference, and discourages the urge to collapse.
6. Maintain your posture. Make a conscious effort to stand and sit straight. It hurts but also helps. Because the healing process for adults is so long, protect your posture and this will help protect other parts of your body from getting out of adjustment and adding more problems to your plate.
5. Count on little or no progress for the first three weeks. If you heal more rapidly you’ll be relieved and thankful. If you don’t, you can avoid devastating disappointment.
4. Commit yourself to healing time. Don’t hesitate to excuse yourself and go lie down if the pain is bad. Don’t worry about refusing social engagements, or about making social visits brief. You need to devote your energy to healing and resting.
3. Escape – at least mentally. Get your mind off your woes by finding some good books to read. And make those good books small and light so you can read while lying down as well as sitting. This need not be expensive. Send a friend to a used bookstore, and tell him or her the kind of books and subjects that interest you. This is a perfect time to watch all those back issues of Mad Men or movies you’ve been wanting to see. Take full advantage of their power to take your mind off the pain.
2. Improvise to minimize pain and setbacks. I placed my hair dryer on my bathroom counter, elevated it with a towel and sat on a short stool. This enabled me to dry my hair with one hand. I used a hair dryer-brush combination and moved very slowly when styling because any quick movement hurts. I chose my easiest to button shorts, and didn’t concern myself with fashion at all. Comfort and cleanliness were my only concerns. I didn’t even TRY to cook, either.
1. Find a pleasant response to, “How are you doing?” People ask because they care, and they really don’t want to hear every minute detail of your suffering. Keep your response upbeat, because your subconscious is listening to you, too. If the drill is, “I am suffering so much,” over and over, think of what that does to your psyche, and how much better the response would be if you thought of the progress you had made, no matter how small, and responded, “I am now able to dress myself,” for example, or, “I’m learning to adjust.” These are truths that will make you feel better, as well as your concerned loved one. Protect your attitude as carefully as you protect your injury.
Bonus tips: Even after you’ve graduated from the standard or the “Figure 8” sling, be sure to wear it when out in public so no one accidentally slaps you on the shoulder or enthusiastically hugs you. And thank your spouse or significant other frequently for their help.
I won’t lie to you. You won’t “feel better in no time.” This is an injury with a longer recovery time but, with patience and kindness, it will happen! Be kind to yourself and others, exercise patience, and know that it will ultimately heal. Good luck and good healing to you!
SEPT. 8 POSTSCRIPT – I located an informative site from a man who had the misfortune of breaking first his left clavicle, then his right. For the first break, he was in the lucky 90% that heal. His second break required surgery. See his site for excellent info, Xrays and surgery options. http://john.jpy.com/clavicle/
Have tips to share? Find this article useful? Please leave a comment, and take care!