TOP TEN Survival tips for broken collarbone aka clavicle

My broken clavicle. For adults, recovery from this injury is typically a slow. frustrating experience. Use these tips to minimize the pain and inconvenience, and get well soon!

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.

Have tips to share? Find this article useful? Please leave a comment, and take care!


29 responses to “TOP TEN Survival tips for broken collarbone aka clavicle

  1. Thank you for posting this!!! I broke my collarbone 4 weeks today & I’m starting to feel depressed with no end in sight. I did this horse jumping & I’am an active person (mother & wife also). Your tips put everything into perspective for me. In the scheme of life, it’s not for ever & I really do need to take this time to heal ….as I only have 1 chance to do it right:)
    Thank you!!!

    • Lisa, thank you for writing and telling me my information was helpful! That’s just the spirit in which I posted it. I’m wishing you complete healing, in as speedy a time as Mother Nature allows! I’m well past my injury of course, and am snow skiing, playing tennis, hiking, lifting life’s “stuff” … back to normal. It will happen for you, too!

  2. Thank you so much for this post I was grateful for the realistic expectation of no progress in the beginning it’s only been 2 1/2 weeks for me so far

    • Hi, Sarah,
      I’m sorry you are having to suffer through this injury. I was reading your comment and other comments from Debbie and Lisa and the others, and I am very glad my story has helped others. It’s a distant memory for me now, and it will be for you, too. It’s been five or six years. Rarely, I will sense a small ache, but it’s small and short lived, just a little reminder that I have some history in my bones now. 😉 Happy New Year, in spite of this challenge. I know you will emerge victorious. 🙂

    • I’m on my 4th week. Still in pain when I’m active. Same side I broke 6 ribs. Get well and be confortable

  3. Good post. Thanks! I wish I saw this before. I am on my 4th week now. Gone through all you mentioned. Should add strategies for better sleeping like using pillows to get certain angles and more comfort. The #3 has been super important for me to cope with the emotional trauma. Still working on #1…. 😉

    • Thank you, Brenda. It’s a great feeling to know that sharing my unfortunate experience has helped others! Congrats on being four weeks into your healing! For others who have suffered or will suffer this injury, know that my healing experience has been good. No residual problems. Once in a rare while, I feel a little ache–probably from a sleep position–but that’s it. I play golf and tennis and have no problems lifting my two-year-old grandson. :-))))

  4. Thank you so much for your post. I broke my collar bone and cracked a rib 7 days ago. I fell off when my horse bolted. I found your post very reassuring as it made me realise that I am not over reacting. For the first couple of days I could only get over the counter medication as I had my accident on a Saturday and after the morphine I was given in A&E wore off, I was beside myself. I should have spoken to my GP on Monday as I was becoming utterly exhausted because of the pain. After reading your post, I sought advice and I finally got prescription pain relief on Thursday morning. I can now sleep for 4 or 5 hours which has really helped. I cannot emphasise enough that proper pain relief is needed for this injury.
    Thank you again for your advice and reassurance.
    Lorna from Lincolnshire

    • Lorna, I’m so sorry we had to meet this way, but I’m glad my information was helpful! I’m glad you found me, and knowing the type of pain this injury creates, I’m very glad you have found pain relief and can sleep. From Colorado to Lincolnshire, hello! Just a note–I write historical romance set during the War of the Roses, in the Somerset area, so I feel as if we have two connections. Final note–it has been seven years since my injury, and I ski, play tennis, golf and lift my grandson easily, with no pain. I’m wishing you such a full recovery, too!

      • That’s amazing. I have a little grandson too. He will be two next week. Unfortunately I can’t now make it to our family get together for his birthday. We were to drive to the Center Parcs at Longleat near Bath. However there will be other times. I fear my horse riding days may be over.

  5. My grandson, Ian, turned two on May 18, how about that? 🙂 Unfortunate timing indeed. Can you Skype with him in his parent’s lap? That way you’ll be able to witness his two-year-old darlingness.

    • Yes we will do that. Talked to him this evening. So impressed that you write historical fiction. I was an English Teacher for 34 years.

  6. Barbara Stead

    I broke my collar bone in 2 places and broke a rib 4 days ago. Your advice has been a godsend and I’m really glad I found it.
    I fell down 5 stairs at work and hit every one of them on the way down. I have a huge haematoma on my head, a very black eye and bruises all over.
    I live in the UK and as public services are so stretched, I was on the floor for nearly an hour, strapped to a board in case I had broken my neck or back because the Ambulance kept being diverted to super emergencies. All the staff at A&E were amazing and I was discharged feeling like I was well looked after.
    Unfortunately I have just started a new job 3 weeks ago and will have to go back to work as soon as I possibly can due to the money situation but your advice was just what I needed to calm me down and give me hope. Thank you. X

    • Barbara, hello! I’m so sorry to learn of your accident. What an awful fall, and to wait for an hour–horrendous, when you’re in that much pain. Thank you for letting me know my advice was helpful. Wishing you blue skies and good luck with your new job, now that you have that misfortune behind you, and also wishing you a full recovery!

  7. Thanks for the tips. The most painful motion is getting out of bed or chair. The best thing I did was rent a lift chair. I slept great and it lifts you up without putting stress on the break.

  8. Hi everyone. It’s 4.30am and I can’t sleep again! The pain is horrendous. Broke my left collar bone a week ago, fell downstairs. When I put the sling on the extra pain below my shoulder and down the outside of my arm is unbearable, so I tend to keep it off when possible. I was told I didn’t have to wear it in bed. I am taking paracetamol, can’t use ibrufofen and co-codamol and stronger painkillers make me sick. Any ideas folks?

    • Hi, Alyson,

      I’m sorry about your night time pain, Alyson. It’s so difficult when you can’t get rest! I found the figure-8 sling comforting, so I can’t address the pain, other than that you might try adjustments to see if it helps to have it looser or tighter. Another possibility is a recliner instead of bed because you can adjust the amount of angle — I found that the more prone I was, the more gravity affected the break and increased the pain.
      Another thought is a small, light ice pack. I use the ACE small, reusable cold compress. It has a soft fabric finish so you needn’t wrap it with another cloth to protect your skin. It’s light, molds to the body, and it both numbs and improves circulation. Here’s the URL so you can read more about it.
      Someone else on this thread may have some ideas, too. Please check back in and let us know how you’re doing. What works for you may help someone else dealing with this difficult injury.

  9. Thank you for your suggestions Janet. I went to my GP today after last nights issues! He’s given me Tramadol and anti-emetics. I took them & fell asleep in my recliner chair for nearly two hours! Feeling woozy, but seemed to help the pain do I’m going yo persevere even though I hate taking tablets. I’m using an ice pack, but am interested in checking out the ACE one. I’ll keep you updated. Thanks again x

  10. Injury update:
    Just got back from the hospital. After X-Ray told the break is fluffy/ sticky! In medical terms it’s starting to heal with calluses. It’s not fully mended and may take another 8-10 weeks to do so!
    Got to keep the sling on and ensure no pressure on collarbone. Apparently even breathing moves it, but they advised me not to stop that 😂😂
    Seeing me in another four weeks – fed up ☹️
    No gym, Nordic walking, aqua aerobics or driving 😢
    In addition, told me not to drink alcohol as it impairs fracture repair!
    Anyone rose been told this? I have to admit I do need my glass of red wine. It’s the only thing I can look forward to 😢

  11. Hi, Alyson,
    I’m sorry to hear about the speed bumps in your healing process! What a conundrum–you can’t exercise, and you’re deprived of your daily glass of red wine! While I’m not a doctor, I thought I’d share some Internet info.
    Here’s one: “Drinking. While a serving of wine each day can be beneficial to blood flow, excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental to wound healing. It significantly increases the risk of wound infection by diminishing the body’s resistance to bacteria and other harmful elements.”
    The National Institute of Health published findings from a 2012 study about the relationship between alcohol and broken bones. You can read more about it at
    I was not advised to abstain from alcohol during my recovery. However, having read the above-referenced article, I would certainly avoid “excessive” consumption.
    Isn’t medicine strange? You have a “fluffy-sticky” break. When I tore a third of my cornea off my eye (tennis accident), I was told I “lacked sticky cells” — my eye tried to heal, but with each blink, my eyelid washed off the healing cells because they weren’t sticky enough. To solve that, the eye doc used a scalpel to make 75 incisions on the surface of my eye. The incisions would give my weak-sticky cells a place to “hold onto” when I blinked my eyes. I guess I was lucky they didn’t tell me to quit blinking!!!!
    Keep your sense of humor and drop by again to let us know how you’re doing. Remember that, “This, too, shall pass.” –Janet

  12. Thanks Janet. Sticking to my glass of red with dinner! Not excessive, no partying! Felt much better after I read about your eye. Think I’d have just died 😢 Hope you’re fully healed now. Thanks for the support xx

  13. You’re welcome, Alyson. Something good comes from everything. During my most acute pain, I was sad and a dear friend brought me an audiobook set in Provence, a story of midlife crisis and renewal. I couldn’t read, and I couldn’t watch television, but I could assume the fetal position and listen to this story. Now, ten years later, I write historical fiction and am an audiobook narrator.

  14. Wow… what a great story. As you say it’s about being positive. There’s always someone worse off than yourself & in my case far, far worse off. Thanks for all your support xx

  15. Hello
    I broke my collarbone 7 months ago and although not in pain it still is a daily reminder. It feels like something stuck on my shoulder that i am aware of all the time. I still have a gap where the break is and am constantly aware of it. Im in my fifties . I would be gratefull if you can advice

    • Hi, Heather! I’m sorry your collarbone is haunting you, sort of, even after healing. I’m not a health professional, but if I were you, I would ask your physician for an MRI of the area where you feel either a gap or something either unnatural or not in a natural place. I wish you well! –Janet

  16. Hello!
    I am so grateful to find this site. I broke my collar bone and have a tear in the rotator cuff after a fall. I also have signif. pain in the scapula area when I try to lay on my back. I am 3 weeks into this injury. I was feeling incredibly down today. I will feel pretty good and do way to much and pay dearly the next day. Thank you for the info! I have not had any follow up for this injury… is that unusual?
    Barbara in Vt.

  17. Thank you for your post! I was getting depressed about the pain and slow recovery, but now from you article and the comments I see I’m recovering as expected. The other posts I’ve seen have been from men who are back on their bikes in 3 weeks! I’m a working Mom and have felt guilty that at 2 weeks I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning.

  18. This is one of the best collections of advice I’ve found in searching the web while healing from my fracture, which happened nearly four weeks ago and was caused by a bicycling accident. The advice on sleeping, what clothing to wear, and self care was spot on! Thanks for sharing!

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