A shoulder fracture is a break in any of the bones in the shoulder: the clavicle (collarbone), humerus (upper arm bone), and scapula (shoulder blade). Symptoms of a shoulder fracture include pain, obvious deformity, swelling, tenderness, redness, instability, discoloration, and stiffness.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it is best to see a shoulder doctor for appropriate diagnosis and intervention. Leaving a shoulder fracture untreated can lead to complications, such as malunion or nonunion: either the bone heals, but not in its proper position, or does not heal at all. Both can result in chronic pain, stiffness, and reduced function.
Read on to learn about the different types of shoulder fractures and the specific modalities a shoulder doctor employs to treat them.
Types of Shoulder Fractures
Shoulder fractures fall into distinct categories: compression, nondisplaced, and displaced.
Compression fractures occur when the ball-like end of the humerus is reduced and deformed due to high-velocity impact (such as during collisions or falls).
Nondisplaced fractures are the most common type, accounting for approximately 80 percent of all shoulder breaks. A fracture is described as nondisplaced when the bone breaks but stays in alignment. For instance, the end of the humerus is not dislocated from the socket (glenoid cavity).
Displaced fractures, in contrast, are those in which the fragments of the broken bone are separated and have moved out of their anatomical position. This type warrants surgery to ensure proper realignment and healing.
Shoulder Fracture Treatment
To determine the type and severity of your fracture and the suitable treatment for you, your doctor will thoroughly examine your shoulder and order medical imaging tests, such as an X-ray, an MRI, and musculoskeletal ultrasound.
If you have a nondisplaced fracture, your shoulder doctor may simply immobilize your arm with a sling for a period of time. Your doctor may advise you to remove the sling periodically to move your elbow so that the joint does not stiffen as your shoulder recovers. Your doctor may also give you pain medications and recommend that you ice the area to reduce the swelling.
For more serious shoulder fractures, you may need shoulder fracture fixation surgery to reconstruct the damaged areas. Shoulder fracture fixation employs a system of metal instrumentation (e.g., internal pins, plates, and screws) to ensure optimal stabilization. After surgery, you will have to wear an immobilizer, such as a sling, and undergo physical therapy to facilitate proper healing and restore the function of your shoulder.
If the ball portion of your humerus is severely broken or crushed, your doctor may recommend a shoulder replacement, in which the damaged portions of your shoulder are replaced with prostheses to restore its function, motion, and strength.
Shoulder Doctor in Boynton Beach, FL
For first-rate hand-and-shoulder care in Boynton Beach, Florida, visit us at South Palm Orthopedics. Dr. Steve Meadows, our board-certified hand surgeon, offers a wide range of highly effective non-surgical and surgical solutions to treat the entire range of upper extremity conditions.
Our on-site services here at South Palm Orthopedics include casting, splinting, medical imaging, and physical therapy.