DePuy Synthes

Shoulder Fracture Overview

DePuy Synthes

Shoulder Fracture Overview

Sometimes an injury causes a shoulder bone to break or partially crack.

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What Is a Shoulder Fracture?

The fracture usually involves the collarbone (clavicle) or the area just below the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus). The cause is often a sudden blow to the shoulder or a bad fall. Pain follows, and the patient may be able to see his or her shoulder bones out of position.

Fractures are either displaced or non-displaced:

  • A displaced fracture is a bone break, in which the pieces on either side of the break are out of line
  • When the broken pieces line up on each side of the break, the fracture is called non-displaced

How Is a Shoulder Fracture Diagnosed and Treated?

After a physical examination of the shoulder, the physician will confirm the diagnosis with an x-ray. This also will show the extent of the break. The soft tissues are seen on other types of studies, for example CT scan or MRI. The doctor will attempt to place the broken bones back into a position that will allow healing and help restore mobility. The patient may need to wear a sling to immobilize the area while it heals.

In some cases, the doctor may suggest further treatment, including surgery and physical therapy to help you restore shoulder function, strength, and mobility. The choices in surgery are several and depend on the type of fracture.

What Can Patients Expect Long Term?

Since most shoulder fractures are the non-displaced type, patients could recover good function in their shoulders. Since these injuries are treated with immobilization, however, they may develop a stiff or "frozen" shoulder. After the pain has subsided from the break, early movement is important. The doctor will show you some exercises you can do to help decrease the chance of shoulder stiffness.

Displaced fractures may require surgery in order to regain good function of the shoulder.

When a shoulder fracture occurs that results in a break into multiple pieces, the head is split in half, or heals poorly, it may be time to consider surgical options. Today there are alternatives that provide pain relief and freedom of movement. More than 111,000 shoulder replacement procedures are performed annually in the United States with many people experiencing pain relief and improved function. 1 In fact, shoulder replacement is the third most common joint replacement. 1

Evaluate Your Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain Assessment: A series of factors are involved in diagnosing the cause of shoulder pain. Take this quick and easy questionnaire.

  1. Does your shoulder hurt one or more days a week?
    o Yes o No
  2. Are activities being limited or avoided because of shoulder pain or discomfort?
    o Yes o No
  3. Does the pain interfere with your sleep?
    o Yes o No
  4. Are pain medications no longer working?
    o Yes o No
  5. Are social activities being avoided due to shoulder pain?
    o Yes o No
  6. Is the pain in your shoulder more than mild?
    o Yes o No
  7. Are you willing to commit to working hard during rehabilitation for a successful recovery?
    o Yes o No

Shoulder pain is not necessarily something you have to live with. You may be able to do something about it. If your shoulder pain is interfering with your daily activities, such as getting in and out of bed, taking a shower or tying your shoelaces, this may be a sign it is time to seek help. Only your doctor can recommend the most appropriate treatment options.



1. McFarland EG. “Shrug off shoulder surgery myth, Johns Hopkins study suggests.“ Accessed April 2016.

As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. The performance of shoulder replacements depends on age, weight, activity level and other factors. There are potential risks and recovery takes time. If you have conditions that limit rehabilitation you should not have this surgery. Only an orthopaedic surgeon can tell you if shoulder replacement is right for you."

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