Robert Graham, MD, and the team at Austin Shoulder Institute in Austin, Texas, are skilled in shoulder fracture care options. These include both surgical and nonsurgical treatment approaches. They aim to stabilize and repair damaged joints while improving joint function, strength, and stability.
If you’re looking for an orthopedic shoulder specialist, call Austin Shoulder Institute or request an appointment today.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON CAUSES OF SHOULDER FRACTURES?
Shoulder fractures can occur because of direct trauma, such as a high impact from an automobile collision or a fall, especially on an outstretched arm, or from severe twists or torsion of the joint.
Fractures can also occur as a result of trauma to the chest or rib cage.
TYPES OF SHOULDER FRACTURES
Your shoulder consists of three bones: your humerus, clavicle, and scapula (upper arm bone, collarbone, and shoulder blade).
You can break any of these bones, including the head or shaft of your humerus, or the glenoid or blade of your scapula, during physical trauma such as falls or collisions.
Proximal Humerus (“Ball”) Fractures
A proximal humerus fracture is a break in the ball or head of your humerus. It’s one of the most common types of shoulder fractures.
Many proximal humerus fractures are mild and non-displaced.
Glenoid (Socket) Fractures
Your glenoid is the socket or cup in your shoulder blade that surrounds your humeral head. Glenoid fractures are less common and often require surgery.
In some cases, glenoid fractures lead to shoulder replacement procedures.
Shoulder Blade Fractures
You can also fracture the blade part of your scapula. These fractures usually occur when you fall onto your back or during a high-force collision.
While rare, shoulder blade fractures don’t usually require surgery and heal with full functional return.
Humeral Shaft Fractures
You can also fracture the top of your upper arm bone. These fractures range in severity and can often be treated with a sling or brace. However, if the bones are displaced, you may need surgery to reset the bones with a plate and screws.
Fractures are classified as non-displaced or displaced, which means the bone either stays in the correct position or shifts out of place. Shoulder fractures range in severity from hairline fractures to comminuted fractures, where the bone shatters into multiple pieces.
These shoulder injuries can also damage your tendons, labrum, rotator cuff, and ligaments, leading to pain and other complications.
Regardless of the location and type of fracture to your shoulder joint, orthopedic surgeons, like Dr. Graham, can evaluate your injury and provide state-of-the-art treatment to repair your shoulder.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SHOULDER FRACTURES?
Shoulder fractures can cause slightly different symptoms depending on where the break occurs, the extent of the break, and whether other structures are involved.
General symptoms include:
- Decreased range of motion or inability to use or move the shoulder
- Swelling around the shoulder or collarbone
- An unnatural appearance of the joint, including “lumps” or protruding areas
- Grinding noises or sensations when you move the joint
Your symptoms may vary based on the location of your shoulder fracture.
For example, proximal humerus fractures cause severe swelling and limited movement. Clavicle fractures, on the other hand, cause swelling or a bump around the center of the collarbone.
HOW ARE FRACTURED SHOULDERS DIAGNOSED?
Your shoulder fracture specialist at Austin Shoulder Institute may use X-rays and diagnostic imaging studies, like CT scans or MRIs, to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the fracture.
These tests provide valuable information to help your orthopedic surgeon identify the best treatment to repair your shoulder.
HOW IS A SHOULDER FRACTURE TREATED?
Fractures can be treated either surgically or non-surgically, depending on the area of the joint that’s been injured.
Many fractures of the clavicle (collar bone) or scapula can be treated without surgery, using bracing or splinting to immobilize the area as it heals, as well as ice and medication to control pain and inflammation.
Similarly, if you fracture the humerus (the upper arm bone), your surgeon can treat the fracture without surgery, unless the bone is fragmented or pushed out of place significantly.
If a clavicle or scapula fracture results in fragmentation of the bone, or if the bone is significantly out of place or piercing the skin, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair your shoulder.
If you need surgery for any shoulder fracture, your surgeon may use screws, rods, or plates to hold the injured or fragmented portions of the joint in place. In some cases, a shoulder replacement may be recommended.
Physical therapy is typically prescribed following a shoulder fracture, especially if you need surgery.
During physical therapy, you initially practice stretches and assisted movements to gradually restore your mobility.
As you continue to heal, your physical therapy increases in intensity as you rebuild your strength.
CAN A SHOULDER FRACTURE HEAL ON ITS OWN?
While around 80% of shoulder fractures are non-displaced and don’t need surgical treatment, you should always talk to an orthopedist, such as Dr. Graham, about a suspected shoulder fracture.
If you don’t get medical assessment and treatment, you risk your bones healing incorrectly, leading to potentially permanent deformity and chronic pain.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECOVER FROM A FRACTURED SHOULDER?
The length of time you can expect for shoulder fracture recovery depends on the severity of your injury.
Mild fractures can heal in as little as six to eight weeks. However, if you have a more severe fracture, you may need several months to fully recover.