Collarbone – 6 weeks, 5 days out

So this is my new right collarbone. I’m pretty happy — as happy as one can be, I guess — with the new shape. And I’m proud that I healed it myself, trusting nature to do its job (though that was tough sometimes). There are some fairly good resources online for people with broken collarbones wanting to know what to do. I really had no idea, and never went to the doctor, so I did a lot of Googling. I got the most (but not necessarily the best) information from these two websites:

Pinkbike broken collarbone recovery time Of course that’s the first thing people want to know. How long will I endure this hell?
John’s Clavicle Page Lay expert-ish, though a bit pro-surgery.

Some things I learned:

1) It doesn’t matter what sling you use, figure-8 or arm sling. Doctors will argue over this probably to the point of war. My best advice is to just get your shoulder into the most natural, symmetrical position you can tolerate and then focus every minute on holding it there (yeah, I know, agonizing, but I’ve been there so I can say it). If you hunch while healing, you will heal that way. If you get on your bike and hunch over your skinny little drop bars before the bone is hard, you can’t wonder why your shoulder is sooooooooooo much shorter than the other. Shoulders up and back. Write it on your hands. Write it on your forehead.

2) Eat well. That means well-sourced whole grains, meats and vegetables. Avoid caffeine and sugar. And consider getting on a calcium/bone supplement pill, something like “Bone Up” or “Grow Bone.” You might be very vitamin D deficient if you don’t get much bare skin sun exposure (hello Pacific Northwest!) or a supplement in your diet, and that is a BIG PROBLEM. I take fermented cod liver oil. Yeah, like your grandma. Just like your grandma.

3) There is a hushed rumbling about (non-surgical) healing times, going something like this, and they’re totally true:

  • Week 1 – Agony. Take lots of narcotics, sleep, watch 4,301 films (don’t bother with books and magazines you won’t be able to turn the page), watch your friends cook and clean for you, and sleep. If you can’t sleep, drug yourself to sleep. Just sleep nestled in pillows sitting against a wall or on your back if you can tolerate it. Don’t let anyone near you who can’t empathize well and don’t even dream of cuddling or hugging or sharing a bed or anything like that. My best bed buddy was my two liter Camelbak (actually Dakine) water bladder. Fill that thing near bursting and I could stay in bed forever, even take my pills laying down! Until I needed to get up to wee. OW OW OW OW OW.
  • Week 2 – Weird. Your body is starting to really get used to the pain. The bone still crunches around when you move your arm at all, but it doesn’t hurt as much. It still really hurts, but not hellishly like week one. You’ll still be wearing your button-down wardrobe is what I’m saying.
  • Week 3 – Your bone is crunching around in there much less, and hurting much less. You won’t need as much narcotic, but there will be bad days. Here’s where posture is really crucial. That said, you may start to notice muscle spasms and cramping toward the end of the week. Consider yourself warned
  • Week 4 – Those bone ends are really trying to fuse. Hold still, dammit. No, you cannot ride your bike! Stop trying to clean your damn house and HOLD STILL. Oh, but what is that you say? Your deltoids, biceps and rhomboids are trying to self-implode? Better hope you have some pain meds left over…
  • Week 5 – Your bone is no longer crunching around and you might not need pain meds at all. But now you have some MAJOR crampage. Massage, acupuncture, and light rehab. My recommendation? STAY OFF THE BIKE. Your bone is still soft and it will still hurt really freakin’ bad if you fall or have to turn quickly.
  • Week 6 – You will feel amazing because your bone won’t hurt unless you contort and your muscles will be relaxing and growing back with rehab. Get on your bike with caution! Pick a nice upright bike like a cruiser, and go slow.

That’s exactly what I did last night. I was so excited, but so scared. I put on my helmet and pushed my bike out the door and suddenly the traffic on Sandy Boulevard (1/2 block from my front door) sounded like hungry dinosaurs. My heart started to race and I almost took my helmet back off. My neighbor stood stunned as I threw my leg over my bike and changed from the hobbling Quasimodo-like figure she’d come to know in the past 6 weeks to the bicycling debutante I’d dreamed of… And I’m off! Very wobbly; the brakes are so sensitive; wait, I have to stop; ag, stopping! Stopping! Is there something wrong with this bike? No, the headset and front hub are tight – keep going. Oh, well, I guess I’m riding off the curb. That didn’t hurt so bad. Wow. Oh, THAT (pothole) hurt. No cars coming, I’m taking this corner all wrong; are cars coming?! OMG! I’m doing it. I’m riding my bicycle. This has to be the most exhilarating, terrifying, and fun thing I’ve done in SIX WEEKS AND FIVE DAYS!

So happy to be back!*

*Back on the bike. I did start sewing around week 4, but the muscle spasms were a huge limiting factor. I needed to work on some rehab before I could spend any worthwhile time at the sewing machine. So, starting next week I plan to go at it with more vigor — and hopefully less pain.