/ Recovering and training with a broken collarbone

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size9hex - on 20 Aug 2014
Hi everyone,

I'm looking for advice on returning to climbing following breaking a collarbone please. Have you been through anything similar, and found that any particular exercises/stretches have helped maintain strength or flexibility in advance of getting back onto the wall? I can see both my arms are getting thinner by the day! Equally, I'd welcome any advice on what to try (or not try) during the first few climbing sessions please.

In terms of my situation, it's thankfully a single, and fairly clean break (having been outwitted by a tree stump on my bike three weeks ago). It's healing without surgery, but I'm waiting for more advice from the fracture clinic this Friday. Until then, I'm doing the gentle exercises they recommended to maintain the range of shoulder movement, but not raising my arm above my shoulder.

Many thanks for any replies or advice.

Mr Fuller on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex: This is the thread I started on the same subject: It contains a bit of detail about my rehab.

Take it steady and remember it's a common break - you are not alone. That doesn't make it feel any better though - I know how debilitating it is. I made a full return to climbing after a few months and have become much stronger since the break. I gave myself a challenge - 5 one-arm pushups on the broken side - and eventually I managed it, but don't rush that! I waited a long time before trying pushups.
Tru - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

Hi Paul,

Sorry to hear about your break, I feel your pain. Broke my clavicle in March last year mt biking. I had to cancel a trip to Kalymnos and could not climb for 3 months.

My break was a little more complicated, still no surgery but boarderline. The bone did not heal after the first 6 weeks but instead took 10 weeks until it started to bond together.

3 weeks in and I was hardly moving my arm let along exercises. My advice is to hold of any physio movements until the xray has confirmed that the bone is bonding together again, obviously don't just take my work for it and consult with the medical professionals regarding this.

I heard scare stories of people returning to exercise too soon and re-breaking the bone so be careful. I took up road cycling (after 8 weeks) and focused on this whilst the bone healed to prevent me from thinking too much about climbing.

After the bone was healed I was weaker but more determined than ever after such a long lay-off. I started slowly with lots of easy mileage and then by May this year I finally went to Kalymnos and climbed my first 7a with my previous hardest grade being 6b+.

Take it easy, don't rush the recovery and you will be crushing again soon.
Circus - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex: Broke mine climbing(falling) on Friday. My advice would be to stay well clear of Google as the range of horror stories and worst case scenarios has made me far too tense.

size9hex - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to Mr Fuller:

Hi Mr Fuller, thanks for taking the time to reply, and thanks for the link. There's some good concrete advice on there. There definitely seems to be a theme of not rushing it too, which is good to know. Did you find that climbing specific fitness (such as overall flexibility or finger strength) came back quickly when you restarted climbing? With the prospect of a few months off, I'm wondering whether it's worth (for example) using a grip master during that time, or whether climbing fitness returns anyway when you get back on the wall.

Congratulations on your own recovery too. I guess a collarbone break is a rite of passage for any cyclist. Hopefully, having had ours, we're both now in the clear
size9hex - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to Tru:

Hi Tru, thanks for your reply, and kind words. All the advice seems to be to take it slowly and carefully, which sounds good. I'm doing some specific exercises on doctors recommendation, and they're all fairly sedate at this stage. Fingers crossed for a good outcome from the fracture clinic later this week though.

It's good to know that you started again with lots of easy mileage. Seems that there's plenty of advice for returning to cycling after a collarbone break, but less for climbers, hence it's good to hear some first hand advice.

Congratulations on your own recovery. From my perspective (and I guess most peoples), 7a is a great achievement.
size9hex - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to Circus:

Hi Circus, sorry to hear that you broken yours too. I hope you're ok (relatively speaking)? Stay positive. I'm amazed how much progress I've made in three weeks. My own experience early on is to keep fingers, hand, wrist and elbow moving where possible - they get really stiff and weak surprisingly quickly in a sling. After ten days, I was told to start exercising a bit more, using my good arm to take up all the weight of the bad arm, and lift it into various positions to maintain range of movement - this seems to really be helping. Sounds cheesy, but I'm keeping notes each day of anything that I've managed to do for the first time since my crash, which you can look back at and see that you're making progress. I've set an hourly reminder on my phone to nag me to do my physio too, which helps. And I'm drinking as much milk as I can

All the very best for your own recovery. Send me a message if you want to swap stories or advice in the coming weeks.
Rob Laird - on 20 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

I broke mine, and after about 3-4 months I was doing some easy scrambling and climbing.

If I remember correctly after around 2-3 months I was able to do 10 pushups (target set by the physio).

It was probably 6 months before I was back to full strength and confident to push myself.

Main thing to echo the other comments, take it slow. The first sign of discomfort, stop and take a rest. Then next time, reduce the effort for a week or 2 before trying again.
Simos on 20 Aug 2014 -
In reply to size9hex:

Don't know if it helps at all but I broke mine (amongst other bones) about 16 years ago. I didn't have surgery but mine seemed displaced and probably took 8-10 weeks to heal. I only took up climbing a few years ago but don't notice any difference on the broken side (do have a pronounced lump of bone there and I can see it hasn't healed straight).

If I were you I would try not to be impatient and stop moving it until you get some advice - you can only make it worse and I doubt you'll be able to do any meaningful exercise. Once all has healed I am sure you'll get back to your current level sooner than you think...
Mr Fuller on 21 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

No problem, and as I didn't say it the first time, sorry to hear of your accident. As you say, it's a rite of passage for cyclists unfortunately!

I wouldn't worry too much about grip strength. I was a barely a climber before the break (I could boulder about V2 indoors and had never led a route outside) but after a few months - sorry I can't be more precise, I just can't remember any better - I started bouldering indoors much more frequently and within about 6 months from the break had done V4 or so. Since my collar bone break I've had two other big lay-offs from climbing due to injuries (massively broken thumb; broken finger) and each time I've steadily got back into it and found you just have to be patient, but it definitely comes back and you can be stronger than before. Two days ago I climbed for only the fourth time in as many months and my flexibility was no worse than before, my arms no weaker, but my fingers were worse. So, juggy bouldering was fine, crimps won't be for a while. I seem to lose stamina more than max-power though - I can still do lock-offs and big roofs, but the circuit board absolutely destroyed me! As for outside, I find it's all in the head - I will continue to be rubbish until I get a decent block of outdoor climbing in! Good luck with it all.
nniff - on 21 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

I broke mine and had to have it plated back together after two weeks of abject misery. I lost a lot of strength in my shoulder, but having learnt the hard way in the past, accepted that taking it slowly was far quicker overall than rushing and damaging it again or interfering with its healing.

I was very diligent with physio, and very cautious when starting to climb and very conscioulsy didn't overdo it. Worked out well overall
size9hex - on 23 Aug 2014
In reply to nniff:

Hi Nniff, Simos, Rob and Mr Fuller,

Thanks for your latest posts. I'm feeling upbeat to see that I'm not the first, and in particular to hear that you've all recovered so well (the eventual quality of recovery being my main worry rather than speed of recovery given the high demands that climbing makes of the body). Taking it slowly and patiently seems unanimous, and it's good to have a better idea now of the kind of timescales that are likely. Sounds like good advice too, on listening for discomfort, and being diligent with the physio. I injured my ankle about 20 years ago, was rather half hearted with the physio, and have regretted it ever since.

It was a good trip to the fracture clinic yesterday incidentally. The two ends of the bone are now in the process of gluing themselves back together (just over three weeks since the break), and the doctor repeated the need to continue regular gentle exercises to maintain flexibility. Still no raising above the shoulder for now, and no carrying anything remotely heavy, and I've got a second follow up with a physio next week.

Thanks again everyone, for taking the time to reply, and for the advice and support!

Rob Laird - on 24 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

Apart from the very occasional ache (maybe notice it a few times a year) I've had no pain or problems since. I don't climb that hard (E1 on a good day), but things like one arm pushups and handstands (even trying handstand pushup with a bit of success) don't cause any discomfort at all.

Give a few months and you'll be back on the wall before you know it
Simos on 25 Aug 2014 -
In reply to size9hex:
Glad to see you are more upbeat Paul - if it helps any further (and not that I am recommending you do the same), I did no physio whatsoever for mine, it healed in a bad position and it still doesn't bother me... No idea why I wasn't told to do physio.

Didn't get so lucky with my ankle though, really wish I had done some physio after I injured it - never been the same since..
Post edited at 00:11
Lurking Dave - on 26 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

Broke (smashed) mine, surgery, Ti plate and pins. Long, very slow recovery. After 10 months recovered >90% range of motion.

Stick with the phsio, do it religiously.

Start a log today. Record simple things (angle at which things hurt etc.) in a few weeks time you may get frustrated at the perceived lack of progress, the log is an honest way to remind yourself how things are improving.
theterrorwheel - on 26 Aug 2014
In reply to size9hex:

Broke my clavicle in 3 places 2yrs ago, had to be plated and have 6 screws to hold together, had real problems with healing, can't do press ups or pull ups still due to pains, unfortunately for me its put a stop to climbing as I get
Painful shooting pains if I jolt shoulder ie if a foot slips or I slap for a hold, fingers crossed the OP situation is nothing like my experience.
DaCat - on 27 Aug 2014
In reply to nniff:

> I broke mine and had to have it plated back together after two weeks of abject misery. I lost a lot of strength in my shoulder, but having learnt the hard way in the past, accepted that taking it slowly was far quicker overall than rushing and damaging it again or interfering with its healing.

> I was very diligent with physio, and very cautious when starting to climb and very conscioulsy didn't overdo it. Worked out well overall

I can't agree with nniff more.

I broke my collarbone in a horse riding accident. Nice clean break, should of healed well but I was too eager to get out and get on with things and so as soon as it no longer hurt, I was back to normal. Getting back to normal too soon weakened the repair and it broke again at the original break point. Second time I had to have an operation that included a plate and screw and I wasn't allowed to pick up so much as a kettle for 3 months.

Rest, rest, rest because the collar bone is a delicate bone and needs time to fully heal. Rest will pay dividends in the end.

If you want to do hand grips make sure your elbows are bent.

size9hex - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to DaCat:

Just wanted to say thanks everyone for the latest replies and posts. It's great to have had so many responses and such good advice. Really appreciate you all having taken the time to write.


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