The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in your body. It includes the upper arm bone (humerus), the scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collar bone.) A fracture of the shoulder refers to a broken bone in any of these three areas. These injuries are more common than you might think and can be the result of any type of trauma, including falls and collisions.
You may suspect you have a fracture if you have swelling, pain, limited movement, and bruising in your shoulder. In some cases, you won’t be able to move your shoulder at all, and if you do, you feel a grinding sensation. You may feel an abnormal bump around the site of injury or have discoloration around the upper arm.
If you suspect you have a shoulder fracture, get examined immediately. At Austin Shoulder Institute, we perform a slew of diagnostic tests to determine if you did indeed break a bone. In most cases, a shoulder fracture heals without surgery, especially if intervention is early enough. But if your fracture has a high risk of developing into arthritis or is likely to heal in an awkward position, we may recommend surgery.
Types of fractures
Shoulder fractures can be displaced or non-displaced.
A non-displaced fracture means that the break occurs without a major shift in the bones, so immobilization in a sling allows the bones to fuse back together and heal pretty easily. About 80% of shoulder fractures are non-displaced.
Displaced fractures mean the bones have shifted out of position and you need some type of manipulation to restore your anatomy. Surgery or physical manipulation prior to immobilization are examples of treatment for a displaced fracture.
Causes of scapular fractures
The scapula is well-protected by the chest and surrounding muscles, so it’s a less frequently experienced shoulder fracture. Usually, a scapular fracture happens due to a high-energy traumatic incident, such as a high-speed automobile accident.
Causes of clavicle and humerus fractures
A fracture of the clavicle or humerus usually is the result of a direct blow to the area, such as a fall. Cyclists and people who ride horses may experience a fall that causes these types of shoulder fractures. A collision, such as a forceful tackle in football or rugby, can also cause a clavicle or humerus fracture.
Clavicle fractures are the most common type of shoulder fracture. Proximal humerus fractures are most common in people older than 65.
Recovery from a fracture
Even if you experience successful recovery from a fracture, you may have permanent stiffness and compromised range of motion. At Austin Shoulder Institute, we support you even after your fracture has healed with physical therapy to help improve motion and strength.
We advise you to refrain from sports until your shoulder strength has returned. If you play a contact sport, we discourage you from participating until X-rays show your fracture has healed entirely, which takes about six weeks.
If you have pain and dysfunction at your shoulder, call us at Austin Shoulder Institute. We help men and women in the Austin area restore mobility and ease pain from fractures and other shoulder injuries.
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