Clavicle collar bone non union

minusnothing Posts: 30
edited March 2020 in Health, fitness & training
Want some real world experiences please from bikers not just people in white coats.

Four months ago I had an ‘off’ onto my left shoulder and broke the last inch or so off the end of my sexy collar-bone.

Four months later the bone is still not healed. Range of motion is coming back (90%) due to physio but it still hurts like a bugger and no outdoor bike action ATM!

Anyone experienced a non-union? Did you get surgery in the end?

Did any of you just leave it - does the pain get better (weeks/months/years)?

I don’t want an op if I know it will eventually settle down, but right now it no longer feels sexy in there...

What are the implications of another ‘off’ on the same shoulder and existing break in the future,


  • I’m not a medic but a non union is not good and can cause problems long term. I had a non union fracture on my scaphoid. Eventually got it operated on after 9 months. Eight weeks later the fracture was healed. Got a screw to pull the bones together. Once the bones were pulled tight together they healed quite quickly. Had to avoid using my wrist while it was healing but now all good.

    So not the same bone but surely the principle will be the same. Go on get it screwed together.
  • redbikejohn
    redbikejohn Posts: 160
    Did you actually break the bone or the ligaments ie an AC Separation?
    I had a type 3 AC separation and while it was weak for a long while all the advice I received was not to have an operation. Fours weeks after break I raced a dirt bike. Works ok ow.
  • photonic69
    photonic69 Posts: 2,620
    Four months is a long time for a break not to heal. I smashed my collar bone into fragements along with a lot of nerve damage back in April 2014. Had an op 3 weeks after incident and they put a plate in to pull it all back. Got back on the bike 8 moths later and after a year of physio bought my first road bike.

    If it's not healing I'd push for an operation. If it heals but badly, not aligned then your range of movement will be limited and backpacks will continually slide off that shoulder. Mine does a bit and it's a PITA.

    Sometimes. Maybe. Possibly.

  • Thanks for the replies. I’m looking for real life examples. 👍

    Four months is a long time, but it does happen. It is deffo broke.

    I didn’t need an operation at the time because it wasn’t displaced or a big risk. Four months is the length of time they give it before deciding to operate or not based on pain and range of motion factors.

    I just wondered if there is anyone on here that went the non-operative route, and what their experience is?

    Or anyone who decided after non-union to actually get the operation?

  • davep1
    davep1 Posts: 836
    I had a similar crash, but I broke my scapula and bruised a couple of ribs in August 2018, crashed on a downhill, my left shoulder/back took the brunt of the fall. It was borderline whether they would operate, they decided I could get away with a sling for a few months and see how it developed. The bone healed by itself, but for some reason, the men in white coats decided I didn't need physio. I put up with having to sleep flat on my back, really struggling with getting out of the bath and restricted movement for several months before I went back to the docs, and they then decided physio might help. It then took several months to actually get a physio appt, so 14 months after the crash I finally started getting the help I needed. 5 months after that and I am getting back to normal; it still hurts at the extreme range of movement, but I can go out on the bike for 3-4 hours without fantasising about a handful of painkillers. I think I may have to live with a little pain for the rest of my days, but compared to what it was it's massively better.
    If you're in your 20's and 30's and the docs can give you a good probability that the op will work, I'd go for it. If you're older and/or the chances of success aren't high, I'd leave it a while yet.
  • Don’t agree with the age comment. I got my operation to pin the bone together at age 55 and it healed up fast after the operation. So it is not relevant to your age. You can still have a very active life in your 50s/60s so lots to gain.
  • It can take a long time for some fractures to heal. Non union can have a cause. We here are not best advised to advise you. Your doctor is. Please dont take lay peoples advise. How my collar bone fracture healed is irrelevant to you. Yours is not healing and the reasons why are specific to you. Forums are great but sometimes question that should not be asked are asked. This is one of them.
  • minusnothing
    minusnothing Posts: 30
    edited March 2020
    Thanks again. I am not really asking for advice, I am asking for recounts of experiences.

    There is a difference.

    I will then use that information, plus all the info from the doctors (who have their own motives $¥) and my own brain to make a decision.

    That is what forums are for.

  • I had a non-union fracture of my collarbone from a bike crash. Like what one of the previous posters said, non-unions have a cause. For me, it was because I lost my thyroid due to cancer, and my replacement thyroid hormone dose was too high. By the time that was sorted out, it was about 4 months after my crash. My x-ray and CT were showing that the ends of the fracture showed resorption. Even after adjusting my thyroid meds, the chances of getting a stable fixation was zilch. Due to the shoulder protraction from the displacement of the fracture, there was constant pain in my shoulder blade. It was also horribly painful to sneeze. Hence, the decision was made to go to surgery. The cool thing was that immediately after my surgery, my shoulder pain resolved. Just by virtue of realigning things back to where they are supposed to be was all it took. I did regain full range of motion with a lot physical therapy. I'm also a rock climber, and I was able to get back to that. The drawback is that I do have some hardware irritation. There's no fat around the collarbone, so wearing a backpack results in a lot of skin-on-metal contact. I have been able to strategically place additional padding on my backpack strap to lessen the amount of pain. I don't know your gender, but the downward pull of the skin for a mammogram is extremely painful too.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks for the replies esp @ladybyrononice.

    For those interested, there are some excellent replies on another forum and proof that this question is valid, eh @thecycleclinic? :p

    ***More Great Answers to a VALID question***

  • I broke mine about 3 years ago. On the X ray it was in many pieces, some severely displaced, notably a piece from the centre of the bone which was way off to one side of where it should have been, plus a number of smaller pieces floating about. Oddly enough it wasn't especially painful - I rode home about 25 miles before going to A&E - though the bruising was spectacular. The consultant said I had the option of either leaving it, saying the pieces would fuse themselves together, or an operation. I didn't like the idea of having all those bits lump themselves together just anyhow, especially as I suspected it might take a long time to happen, so I went for the op. A titanium plate and 14 screws. I was on the turbo the next day and back on the road in a month, so I think that was the right decision.