Shoulder fracture mainly pertains to fracture of head of humerus and the glenoid of shoulder blade. Fracture in simple term is broken bone. Majority of fractures are caused due to injury, fracture of shoulder bone is not an exception. Shoulder fracture in majority of cases occurs due to traumatic injury as motor vehicle accidents or fall on the shoulder joint from a height etc.
When the humerus is broken near its head or the ball, it is commonly referred as shoulder fracture. In rare instances the glenoid of shoulder blade may also break. A fractured bone can be displaced from its original anatomical position or remains non- displaced. Fortunately, in almost 80 percent of shoulder fractures, the bone is not displaced. Therefore the injury can be treated conservatively without surgical intervention.
In rest 20 percent cases of displacement, surgery may be required to reduce the future risk of arthritic changes in shoulder joint as well as mal alignment of the shoulder bone. Complications may arise when the rotator cuff muscle is torn.
Symptoms Of A Broken Shoulder Joint
- Pain: The most important symptom of shoulder fracture is pain in shoulder joint.
- Immobility: Patient experiences severe pain with slight movement of hand. Patient therefore is unable to move his arm without pain.
- Swelling: There may be associated swelling in the arm soon after traumatic injury. Swelling results due to collection of blood into the joint space. Blood gets collected into the joint space from the broken blood vessels.
- Tenderness: The area affected becomes tender to touch.
- Discoloration: The skin area around the upper arm becomes discolored, sometimes with bruise.
Treatment Options For Shoulder Fracture
Fracture of shoulder joint in majority of cases is treated medically, since the fractured bones are not displaced from their anatomical position. Once the fracture is diagnosed on X-ray, the arm may have to be immobilized with collar and cuff sling. It will support the arm and the humerus will be pulled downwards and remain in its correct position.
Use of sling will prevent dis-lodgement of the fractured fragment as the arm will remain immobilized. However, do not put anything under the elbow as this may push the upper arm bone upwards and cause dislocation. The sling has to be worn at least for six weeks depending on the healing of fracture. Sling can be worn outside your shirt.
While you give full rest to your shoulder joint and fractured humerus, make sure that your elbow, fingers and lower arm remain flexible, even though the sling rests on the forearm. Once the healing process begins, your doctor may recommend you to move your arm to prevent stiffness. However, movement should be gradual and slow. Passive physiotherapy exercises should be continued till the shoulder joint achieves full range of motion.
Surgery is indicated if the fractured pieces of bone are displaced. During surgery these fragments are brought together and fixed with pins and plates or wires depending on the severity of fracture. In case if the ball of humerus is crushed or broken, replacement with artificial ball may be necessary.
After the surgery it may take few weeks to recover. Rehabilitation physical therapy has to begin as advised by the doctor to improve mobility and strength of shoulder joint.