A fracture is a broken bone. Fractures can range in
severity from a crack (known as a hairline or greenstick
fracture), to a complete break and separation of a bone that
may protrude through your skin (known as an open or compound
Fractures can occur in any bone in the body, but the most
common fractures are of bones in the extremities and of the
ribs. Fractures are most common in young adults who are
adventurous in nature, and in the older population as bones
A closed fracture is one in which the bones do not break
the skin, while in an open (also known as compound)
fracture, one or more bone fragments protrudes through the
skin. Open fractures are more difficult to treat and have a
greater risk of infection. Stress fractures are tiny cracks
that develop in bone due to repeated force, such as overuse
Because we have three major bones in our shoulders, there
can also be three different types of shoulder fractures.
Clavicle fractures are the most usual of all the
fractures of the shoulder and fracture can happen when
something heavy and hard fall on the shoulder. These kinds
of fractures are very painful and there would be difficulty
in moving the arm.
- Scapula-Shoulder blade fractures are the result from
high-impact trauma such as accidents or fall from
certain heights. Because the shoulder blade is a
delicate bone, a CT scan may be required to have an
overall analysis of the fracture.
- Shoulder Joint fractures or the proximal humerus
fractures are the result from falling that landed on the
arm first resulting in shoulder dislocation.
Dislocations of the ball sockets are the usual
characteristics of these kinds of fractures.
What causes shoulder fractures?
A number of factors increase the risk of developing
fractures. Not all people with risk factors will get
fractures. Risk factors for fractures include:
- Advanced age
- Certain genetic disorders
- Excessive tobacco or alcohol consumption
- Female gender
- Lack of physical activity on a regular basis
- Lack of proper nutrition, especially calcium
- Osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones)
- Participation in sports
- Thyroid or endocrine disorders
- Vitamin deficiencies
What are the symptoms of a shoulder fracture?
- Shoulder Pain
- Deformity or "bump" at the site of the fracture
- Discoloration around the upper arm
- Inability to normally move the arm without pain
Diagnosing a shoulder fracture:
The medical history will be inquired by the doctor and
other condition that might be contributing to the pain.
Physical examination will be conducted as well. The doctor
will feel the injury and will ask the patient to move his
arms if there are limits to their movements. Moreover, a
more systematic review will be relevant to find any
information that might be related to the shoulder injury.
First, an x-ray will be taken to confirm shoulder fracture
and then an injection of contrast fluid will be injected
into the shoulder to outline structures of the bone. This
process is called an arthrogram. MRI may also be needed to
produce series of cross-sectional images and other
diagnostics might follow.
Shoulder fracture surgery:
There are different options for the treatment of shoulder
fractures depending on which bone is damaged. For clavicle
fractures, a ‘figure 8” treatment is most recommended. This
is a strap that will be worn on the shoulder for around 2
months. Range of motion will be administered after the pain
subsides but the person may not be allowed to use his
shoulder for a long time until completely healed. For
shoulder blade fractures simple slinging of the shoulder,
which may last for two weeks or a month will be needed.
However, when there is a severe displacement of the glenoid
or shoulder socket surgery may be needed.
For those events when the shoulder joint must be
positioned back into place, sling can be an option but if
the fracture is a displaced bone, surgery will be the option
in line. Non-displaced fractures are oftentimes treated with
the use of slings but fractures with displaced or fragmented
bones will require surgery as well and then going back to
the sling and therapy thereafter.