Overview on a shoulder fracture

A shoulder fracture can be categorized as displaced or non-displaced. Trauma can damage the humerus or glenoid of the shoulder joint. In some cases of fracture, surgery might be a better option due to the high risk of arthritis if not done. Some are not likely to heal or even heal incorrectly if not fixed surgically.

In most cases, they are usually non-displaced. With this type of shoulder fracture, the broken pieces are still positioned closely and the treatment only involves immobilization using a sling until the bone fragments heal. Generally, most fractures heal in around 6 weeks. If displaced, it might necessitate some form of manipulation to reestablish normal structure.

shoulder-fracture

For most cases of non-displaced fractures, immobilization with a sling is used until the shoulder fracture heals to allow movement without the risk of displacing the bone fragments.

What are the indications?

  • Shoulder pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move the arm without any pain or discomfort normally
  • Deformity or bump at the site of the fracture
  • Discoloration around the upper arm

Management of a shoulder fracture

Medical approach

For most cases of non-displaced fractures, immobilization with a sling is used until the shoulder fracture heals to allow movement without the risk of displacing the bone fragments. An X-ray is used to determine if adequate healing has occurred to allow the start of motion exercises.

The flexibility of the wrist, elbow and fingers should be maintained while resting the shoulder. With the guidance of the doctor, shoulder movement can be started as the fracture heals. In case the arm is moved early, this can disrupt with healing but limited movement can also lead to stiffness.

Surgical approach

If a shoulder fracture is displaced, surgery might be required to restore the pieces and fix them using pins, wires, screws or plates.

In case the ball region of the upper arm is damaged, crushed or split, shoulder replacement might be required. Since most cases of fractures are non-displaced, regaining of movement and functionality is often accomplished. The displaced fractures might require surgery and even result to damage to the adjacent muscles. Understandably, this results to increased shoulder pain, residual discomfort and weakness.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on a shoulder fracture is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to properly care for fractures, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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