PDA

View Full Version : Broken Collarbone Details?



Quickbread
02-15-2015, 09:14 AM
Hi all. I've got a character who falls, and I'm hoping to break his collarbone. Which leads to a few questions:

- How long would his arm be in a sling? (I read 8 weeks online, just double checking.)
- Could he move his arm during that time at all, like small movements?
- Could he drive during that time?
- How does it feel when you get one and while it's healing? I've never had a broken bone.

Thanks!

Mr. Mask
02-15-2015, 10:20 AM
Hey Bread.

This depends on the severity of the injury. Which side of the collarbone the break is on will effect which arm is incapacitated. Generally, this is a very dangerous injury, which can result in the lung being punctured or the subclavian artery being ruptured, in the case of a compound fracture.

Normally, doctors will want to keep the character under observation for two weeks. After that, the severity decides how long it takes it to heal. Also, if it is a dislocation instead, it will normally heal more quickly.

There will be a lot of pain when the injury is received. For several weeks, there might be pain whenever the character moves at all. If the character is exceptionally tough, they may be able to perform activities despite the pain. Most people would be hopped up on painkillers and would not be safe to operate heavy machinery.

If you can get the bones to line up, you might be able to move the effected arm (with the help of the other arm), but not in a usable way; it won't even be able to hold up its own weight, needing a sling, or for the character to use some makeshift trick like bag straps or sticking your thumb in your belt . It will probably be very painful. I know someone whose case caused surprisingly little pain, so your character might be surprised to find the same (still don't abuse that arm, or they'll regret it).

This means your character would have to drive one handed. Possible in an automatic transmission car, but impossible with any speed in a manual one. Driving one handed may be illegal in some places, but the narcotics your character would normally have to take would forbid operating heavy machinery. And if they ever have to stop suddenly, the pain would be debilitating.

All these factors are, however, effected by the severity of the break. Depending on what you want your character to do how soon, you can adjust the severity.


I'm sorry I couldn't be more help. Hope you find your answer soon.

Michael Davis
02-15-2015, 01:22 PM
Okay, I'm throwing back many years but when I broke my collar they put me in an upper body cast with the arm on the break side included. I remember everything under the case itched constantly, eventually they removed with a vibrating saw, after 8 weeks my body was rank, and my arm kept wanting to return to the cast position. Plus took a while to regenerate muscles on that side.

cat_named_easter
02-15-2015, 05:30 PM
Hey, I broke my collarbone when I was fifteen (fifteen years ago). My mum broke hers too, so I'm answering from these experiences:

- How long would his arm be in a sling? (I read 8 weeks online, just double checking.)
My arm was only in a sling for at most 2 weeks, and this was a complete clean break - bone snapped, then overlapped a little and I now have a lump where you can still feel it with your fingers (they can't reset broken collarbones, the bone just has to rest where it is and it "fuses" back together, in whatever way it's lying (unless things have drastically changed in fifteen years which I don't think they have)). I didn't get a cast or anything, neither did my mum.

- Could he move his arm during that time at all, like small movements?
Yeah, you can move your arm around a little. It's raising your arm that's the problem. Took quite a while to be able to raise it above shoulder-height properly (I still think my shoulder's a bit weird because of it all...)

- Could he drive during that time?
I'm pretty sure a doctor would be telling you not to drive for several weeks (obviously I couldn't drive at that age when it was me). My brother dislocated his shoulder and got some operation on it, I'm pretty sure he
couldn't drive for 6 weeks (I know this isn't exactly the same thing).

- How does it feel when you get one and while it's healing? I've never had a broken bone.
It was a really heavy, dull pain when it happened, especially when I tried to move my arm or someone moved it for me. It actually didn't hurt that much after, probably because of the sling and my arm just hanging there. It was only uncomfortable trying to life my arm up high. I broke my toe a few months ago and it honestly caused more discomfort and mobility issues than the collarbone!

Hope this helps.

melindamusil
02-17-2015, 12:19 AM
I broke my collarbone when I was 17 and in a bad car accident.

How long would his arm be in a sling? (I read 8 weeks online, just double checking.)

I had other injuries in the accident which left me in a coma 11 days and basically bedridden for about 3 weeks. Since I wasn't moving much, they only used the sling off-and-on during that time, and I'm told that also gave the arm a chance to set really well. Once I was up and moving, I used the sling for a month or so. Like cat_named_easter, I also have a lump on my shoulder from where it was broken.

- Could he move his arm during that time at all, like small movements?
Yes and no. Yes, I could move my arm, but it HURT like nothing I'd ever felt before. Even after they took away the sling, I continued to hold my arm against my body like it was still in the sling, because it hurt to have it in any other position. It took a few weeks of physical therapy to get to a point where I could move my arm without pain. I still don't quite have 100% range of motion in that arm.

- Could he drive during that time?

In my case? I wasn't allowed to drive anyway due to other injuries from the accident. Would you be physically capable of driving? Sure, you could still drive one-handed. But I suspect most doctors would recommend against it.

- How does it feel when you get one and while it's healing? I've never had a broken bone.

I honestly don't remember the accident, so I don't know what it felt like to break it. While it's healing? I'd compare it to muscle soreness, except 10x worse, and the pain originated from the bone, not from the muscle. And like I said, holding it in the sling felt okay, not too painful, but anytime I tried to extend the arm or raise the arm, it hurt!

Quickbread
02-17-2015, 11:25 PM
Thank you so much, guys. All your details are wonderfully helpful.

Melindamusil, wow, I'm so glad you're okay now.

Thanks again, everyone!

StormChord
02-17-2015, 11:39 PM
If you still need any information, I broke my collarbone a little over a year ago so it's pretty fresh in my mind.

I was only in a sling for two weeks, although I didn't have much mobility for the following two weeks. The initial break wasn't so bad - I felt dizzy and nauseous from the shock, but the pain in my arm only started when I tried to move it out to the side. I could move my arm forwards and backwards and freely from the elbow, but no outward movement for several weeks.

I can't drive anyway, so I wouldn't know the answer to that one.

The healing period wasn't so bad. My shoulder was badly sprained by the break, though, which was actually much more painful than the break site - I could move my arm pretty well, but even touching my shoulder felt very painful. The pain at the break site was sharp and hot for the first few days, then reduced to an overall dull ache that would occasionally flare up again over the course of the recovery period.

Sleeping was pretty tough, though. There are no comfortable sleeping positions when moving your arm an inch in the wrong direction can reduce you to a level of functionality that includes barely remembering to breathe.

Quickbread
02-17-2015, 11:49 PM
Thanks, StormChord! That's very helpful, as well. Sounds like a similar situation I was hoping to give to my character.

slhuang
02-18-2015, 12:03 AM
Hi Quickbread,

I broke my collarbone as a teenager and had a similar experience to cat_named_easter in terms of severity. Mine was a clean break and the bone didn't misalign (I still remember the X-ray, you could see the break straight through the bone but it was lined up perfectly). If it helps, the way mine happened was falling off my bike when walking my dog -- she pulled, the bike went over sideways, and I fell on my shoulder.

- How long would his arm be in a sling? (I read 8 weeks online, just double checking.)

Eight weeks sounds about right. I was in a figure-8 brace, though, not a sling -- a soft wrap that went around the shoulders and back. With my clothes over it you couldn't even tell I was wearing it or that I had a broken bone.

- Could he move his arm during that time at all, like small movements?

I absolutely could. I functioned just fine during pretty much the whole healing period; it wasn't like I was swinging from my arms and I remember being careful not to fling my arm up or anything, but day-to-day was not impeded at all. I went to school, performed in the school play, ran for class president, all during that time.

(Interesting factoid: It turned out another guy in the school play had a broken collarbone at the exact same time. He was also in a figure-8 brace and I didn't know until he told me. We thought it was a pretty funny coincidence. We both performed with them and had no trouble.)

- Could he drive during that time?

I wasn't driving yet at the time, but based on other injuries I've had since that have incapacitated an arm, I'd say: automatic, definitely yes; stickshift, probably yes but with some difficulty in re: range of motion.

- How does it feel when you get one and while it's healing? I've never had a broken bone.

When it broke, it was really super fucking ginormously painful. I have a very high pain threshold and it was one of the most painful things I've ever felt. Horrendous, stabbing, screaming pain. (The pain level was what tipped my mom off I'd probably broken something.) By the time I was at the ER it had died down, and while healing it wasn't painful at all. I don't think I even took any OTC pain meds while healing, but it's been many years now so I might have and not remember -- I just remember it being ridiculously painful at the time and then not at all after.

Hope that helps!

melindamusil
02-18-2015, 09:27 PM
Quickbread, I tried to find the arm exercises that I did with the physical therapist and wasn't really successful, mostly because these really isolated the muscle. I would sit in a chair or on the edge of one of the (chair height) mats and hold a small dumbbell. (IIRC, I started with a one or two pound dumbbell and worked up to five pounds.) It was all really simple exercises - arm raises, chest presses, bicep and tricep curls.

(Not unlike regular exercise - I improved and got better with time. When they took away the sling and I first started these exercises, my arm raises and bicep curls were pretty pitiful, only a few inches up, but with time it got up to almost-full range of motion.)

This page has lots of similar arm exercises, but it gives them as full body exercises. Imagine doing ONLY the upper body part of each exercise.
http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Dumbbell-Arm-Exercises-35176832?stream_view=1#photo-35180346

tiddlywinks
02-23-2015, 07:44 AM
Hi Quickbread,

Looks like you've received a good amount of useful info on here re: collarbone breaks. Just a few extra tidbits perhaps to help flesh things out?

My husband broke his collarbone just a few years ago in a sporting accident, broken in multiple places. He was a little shocky at first, so didn't start having severe pain until we got to the ER. Then it was BAD. And he's a tough guy.

The doc he had elected not to do surgery in favor of letting it heal on its own, so hubby was in a figure 8 brace like others had - I think he was in it for 3 months, though. Sleeping was a real pain - he had to sleep in a recliner with a towel rolled up and aligned between his shoulder blades so his shoulders would fall back at night, allowing the collarbone to stretch out and heal with better alignment.

He's a very active guy, but was unable to do much of anything the first couple of weeks in terms of any type of strenuous motion without turning green. - "feels weird" was the quote. Lots of time in the pool and stationary bike.

Also, getting bumped by others? NOT a good idea.

Again, this was a more severe break, so the healing time was longer.

Good luck with the story!

What's the character situation, out of curiosity?

Quickbread
02-23-2015, 07:59 AM
Thanks so much for all the extra input, you guys! This is all really going to help me make my chapter solid.

Tiddlywinks, the situation is a fifteen-year-old on a skateboard who hits the curb and flies off the board, crunching into an embankment with his shoulder. I was thinking of giving him a relatively minor break, so he could be up and going in two months but hopefully not sooner. He has to miss out on drivers' ed class so that he needs to wait until the next semester.

But now that you guys have given me your stories on more complicated breaks, that might be a better way to go.

Thanks again!

tiddlywinks
02-23-2015, 08:10 AM
Ah! Interesting angle, Quickbread, thanks for sharing. I imagine it would depend on the force of impact upon his fall as to the severity of the break.

In any case, I hope he's wearing a helmet :D

melindamusil
02-23-2015, 08:30 AM
Thanks so much for all the extra input, you guys! This is all really going to help me make my chapter solid.

Tiddlywinks, the situation is a fifteen-year-old on a skateboard who hits the curb and flies off the board, crunching into an embankment with his shoulder. I was thinking of giving him a relatively minor break, so he could be up and going in two months but hopefully not sooner. He has to miss out on drivers' ed class so that he needs to wait until the next semester.

But now that you guys have given me your stories on more complicated breaks, that might be a better way to go.

Thanks again!

I've heard that the collarbone is the most frequently broken bone in the human body. Something to do with the prominence of the bone or instability of the shoulder. So I think you've made a wise choice in breaking your character's collarbone.

Whether it's severe or mild - I think either one would be believable. Accidents are just weird like that. Go with whatever works best for your story.