Treatment of Shoulder Fractures
What is a Shoulder Fracture?
A break in a bone that makes up the shoulder joint is called a shoulder fracture.
Types of Fractures
The clavicle and end of the humerus closest to the shoulder are the bones that usually get fractured. The scapula on the other hand is not easily fractured because of its protective cover by the surrounding muscles and chest tissue.
Causes of Shoulder Fracture
Clavicle and humerus fractures can occur by a direct hit from a motor vehicle accident, collision or fall. A fracture of the scapula can occur by high-energy trauma during an accident from a high-speed motor vehicle.
Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Fracture
The common signs and symptoms of shoulder fracture may include:
- Difficulty in lifting your arm
- Numbness, tingling or coldness of the hand and forearm
- Popping sound, also referred to as crepitus, heard or felt at the time of the fracture
Diagnosis of Shoulder Fracture
A shoulder fracture is usually diagnosed based on a thorough physical examination, and imaging studies such as X-rays and CT scans.
Treatments for Shoulder Fractures
The treatment for a shoulder fracture is based on the type of fracture. Treatment can include non-surgical and surgical methods.
Non-surgical Treatments for Shoulder Fractures
Conservative treatment options include:
- Immobilization: A sling is used for comfort and to support the shoulder to allow healing to take place. This is usually worn about 3-6 weeks depending on the type of fracture and how well you heal.
- Prescription medications: Pain medications will be prescribed for your comfort during the healing process.
- Physical therapy: Early progressive range of motion exercises is essential in restoring full shoulder function. Your physician will most likely refer you to a physical therapist for instruction on proper exercises and early motion of the shoulder to prevent complications.
Surgical Treatment for Shoulder Fractures
For fractures of the shoulder involving the neck or glenoid or severe displacement, may be treated through surgery. The surgical intervention usually requires realignment of the bones properly and restore a functional, pain free range of motion to the shoulder joint.
Scapular fracture repair surgery has historically been performed through a large, open incision. Newer, minimally invasive techniques have evolved and surgery to repair scapular fractures can now be performed through arthroscopy.