Shoulder Fracture Repair

Trauma to the shoulder or even falling onto an outstretched arm can often result in a shoulder fracture. We will explain the different types of shoulder fractures possible, the symptoms that each one has, and how these fractures are treated.

If you require treatment for a shoulder fracture, contact Dr. Benjamin W. Szerlip, DO, today! Dr. Szerlip is a fellowship-trained shoulder and sports medicine surgeon who is helping many patients recover from fractured shoulders in Austin, Texas.

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What Patients Are Saying

“I was very pleased with my experience of my shoulder surgery. My pain was easily managed and I’m looking forward to getting back on the golf course. Dr. Szerlip was easy going and you can tell he loves his job and cares about you!” — Melody G. 

About Shoulder Fractures

The shoulder is made up of three bones, the scapula (shoulder blade), the clavicle (collar bone), and the humerus (arm bone). These bones come together to form the shoulder joint. Shoulder fractures can refer to broken bones in any of these bones.

Types of Shoulder Fractures

A shoulder fracture could occur in one or more of the following three areas.

Clavicle Fractures

Clavicle fractures are common in all age groups. The fracture usually occurs in the middle part (Shaft) of the bone, although it can also occur where it attaches to the ribcage (sternum) or shoulder blade (acromioclavicular joint).

Clavicle fractures can vary from slight cracks to the bone broken in several pieces. The broken pieces may remain in appropriate alignment or they may be shifted out of place (displaced fracture).

Scapula Fractures

It is less common for the scapula to be fractured because it is protected by the chest and surrounding muscles. They usually occur in high-energy trauma accidents, such as high-speed collisions, or falls from a great height. 

The most common place for the scapula to break is in the body followed by the neck. However, the scapula can also occur in the glenoid, acromion, and coracoid.

Proximal Humerus Fracture (Upper Arm Bone)

Proximal humerus fractures are relatively common and often seen in older patients with osteoporosis. They can fracture by falling at ground level on an outstretched arm.

What Are the Symptoms of a Shoulder Fracture?

Some symptoms are common in all shoulder fractures. Other symptoms are specific to the location of the fracture.

General Shoulder Fracture Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to move your shoulder
  • A grinding sensation (crepitus) when your shoulder is moved
  • Shoulder deformity

Clavicle Fracture Symptoms

  • Swelling and bruising in the middle of the collarbone
  • You may have a bump on the collarbone at the fracture site
  • Limited range of motion in your shoulder.

Proximal Humerus Fracture Symptoms

  • Severe pain
  • Severe swelling in your shoulder
  • Very little shoulder movement
  • Bruising around the top of the arm

Scapular Fracture Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Severe bruising in the shoulder blade area

Diagnosing Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder fractures can be diagnosed through a physical examination and imaging tests. A fractured bone can usually be seen using an X-ray. Some situations may also require a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Fractured Shoulder Treatment

Most shoulder fractures can be treated without surgery. Surgery may be recommended if the broken bones have shifted out of place and healing in that position would lead to increased pain or decreased function. The following are some of the treatments available according to the location of the fracture:

Clavicle Fracture Treatment

Clavicle fractures are usually treated without surgery. Surgery is used when the fracture breaks through the skin or is severely displaced.

Surgery is necessary when the fracture has broken through the skin, or if the broken bone is severely out of place. Your surgeon may be able to fix the fracture in place using plates and screws or rods inside the bone.

Proximal Humerus Fracture Treatment

Most proximal humerus fractures can be treated without surgery. Surgery is recommended if the bone fragments are severely out of position (displaced). Surgery may involve the following:

  • Fixing the fracture fragments with plates, screws, or pins
  • A shoulder replacement procedure in older patients. 
  • A bone graft to aid the bone healing process
  • Align the bones with a camera and instruments placed through small incisions (arthroscopy)

Scapula Fractures

Many scapula fractures are treated without surgery. Your arm will be put in a sling while the broken bone heals. You will use ice packs and pain medications to reduce swelling and pain.

Surgery is used in the rare case that the fracture involves the ball and socket joint or a severe fracture of the clavicle. Your surgeon will realign the bones and fix the fracture fragments with plates and screws.

Recovering From a Shoulder Fracture

It may take several weeks or even months to recover from a shoulder fracture. Recovery typically involves a period of immobilization followed by rehabilitation. I would put link to my website and the prox humerus rehab protocol here? 

You can expect to return to some function slowly every week with a minor shoulder fracture. However, pain, strength, and range of motion will continue to improve up to 6 months after the injury.

Rehabilitation will include a supervised physical therapy program. Your physical therapist will give you exercises to decrease stiffness, improve your range of motion, and strengthen the shoulder muscles.

Schedule Your Appointment

If you’re looking for shoulder fracture treatment in Austin, Texas, schedule your appointment with Dr. Benjamin Szerlip. He is helping many patients make a full recovery from their shoulder injuries. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!


Medically reviewed by Benjamin W. Szerlip DO