Broken Shoulder

Broken Shoulder (Fractured Humerus)

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

Broken Shoulder

Understanding Shoulder Fractures

When a bone near the shoulder joint breaks, we call it a shoulder fracture or a broken shoulder. Often, this involves the humerus, the upper arm bone connecting the shoulder to the elbow. It can break in many places, including its neck. Knowing where the fracture is helps doctors decide on the best treatment, especially as key shoulder muscles connect to this bone.

Fractures in the shoulder often result from falls. Sometimes, another fracture might occur in the shoulder at the same time.

Fracture or Break: Which is More Severe?

A fracture and a break mean the same thing, no matter what others might tell you. “Fracture” is just the medical term for “broken bone”. You’ll find different types of fractures like greenstick (incomplete), transverse (across the bone), and spiral (around the bone), among others.

Always let an orthopaedic surgeon check out any shoulder fractures.

Treatment for a Broken Shoulder

broken shoulder
Broken Shoulder

If an X-ray confirms a broken shoulder, doctors usually support it with a collar and cuff sling. This sling, holding your arm at the wrist, uses your elbow’s weight to help the broken bones heal correctly.

Avoid putting anything under your elbow as it can push the humerus up and misalign the bones. That’s why triangular slings don’t work well. When resting, don’t use a pillow to support your arm.

Wear the collar and cuff for around six weeks, even over your clothes. You can take it off to wash. The first two weeks might be painful, so consult your doctor about pain management.

In some situations, a surgeon might recommend surgery to fix the broken shoulder.

Physiotherapy & Exercises for Healing

If you don’t need surgery, wear the collar and cuff as instructed by your shoulder specialist. While doing so, keep moving your fingers and wrist to avoid stiffness. Your doctor or physiotherapist will guide you on when to start various exercises. Remember, don’t rush things; you don’t want to worsen your shoulder fracture.

Movement helps prevent stiffness, but healing your fractured humerus remains the main goal. Always listen to health experts to recover full movement quickly.

For the best exercises and timings, rely on your physiotherapist. If your shoulder feels stiffer, seek their advice within two weeks of the injury or surgery for optimal results.

Will Recovery be Complete?

Most likely, yes! Expect improvements in your broken shoulder for up to a year, with significant progress early on.

Helpful Tips for a Broken Shoulder

  • Washing: Remove the collar and cuff and swing your arm gently to wash underneath.
  • Driving: Don’t drive while wearing a collar and cuff. Wait at least eight weeks after removing the sling before driving again.
  • Work: Depending on your job, you might return within two weeks. If you have a hands-on job, wait at least three months.
  • Sport: Engage in light, non-contact sports after six weeks, but reduce your playtime.
  • Smoking: Avoid it. Smoking can delay bone healing.

Potential Complications

Sometimes, a broken shoulder doesn’t heal right, and you might need corrective surgery. If the fracture heals wrongly, surgery can correct it or even put in an artificial joint.

General Advice

After a shoulder fracture, you might see significant bruising down your arm, which can linger for days. This injury is common, especially in older folks, and the shoulder might feel stiffer than before.

For any concerns, always reach out to your physiotherapist or doctor.

In Summary

A broken shoulder or fractured humerus can be a challenging experience for anyone. Whether caused by a fall or another form of trauma, understanding the nature of the injury and the available treatments is crucial. With proper care, support from medical professionals, and physiotherapy, most people make a full recovery. It’s essential to follow the advice given, avoid certain activities during the healing process, and remain patient. As always, if concerns arise or if symptoms worsen, seeking guidance from your physiotherapist or doctor is paramount. Remember, taking care of your shoulder now ensures better mobility and health in the future.

Common Shoulder Pain & Injury Conditions

Shoulder problems are a common source of discomfort and disability, affecting individuals of all ages and lifestyles. The shoulder joint, one of the most mobile joints in the human body, is prone to various issues arising from injuries, overuse, or underlying conditions.

Common shoulder problems include: rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement, frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), shoulder instability, and arthritis.

These conditions can result in symptoms such as pain, stiffness, weakness, limited range of motion, and difficulty performing everyday activities.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which may involve physiotherapy, medications, injections, or in some cases, surgery, can help alleviate the pain and restore function to the shoulder joint.

Rotator Cuff

Adhesive Capsulitis

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Instability

Acromioclavicular Joint

Bone Injuries

Post-Operative Physiotherapy

Muscle Conditions

Systemic Conditions

Referred Pain

Shoulder Products & FAQs

Shoulder Pain FAQs

Your Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Managing Shoulder Injuries

Welcome to the "Shoulder Pain FAQs" page, your go-to resource for understanding various aspects of shoulder pain, injuries, and how to manage them effectively. The shoulder is a complex joint that allows for a wide range of movements, but it is also susceptible to various injuries and conditions that can cause discomfort and limitations in daily activities.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the most common shoulder injuries, their causes, and how to identify and treat them. We'll also address frequently asked questions about specific shoulder conditions, providing you with valuable insights into your shoulder health.

When Should You Worry About Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can be caused by numerous factors, ranging from minor strains to more severe injuries. Knowing when to seek medical attention is crucial to prevent further damage and facilitate timely recovery.

More info: When Should You Worry About Shoulder Pain?

6 Common Shoulder Injuries

We'll swing into six of the most prevalent shoulder injuries, shedding light on their causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatment options.

More info: 6 Common Shoulder Injuries

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

Understanding the root causes of shoulder pain is fundamental to addressing the issue effectively. We'll explore the various factors that can lead to shoulder discomfort and how to mitigate them.

More info: What Causes Shoulder Pain?

What is Your Scapulohumeral Rhythm?

The scapulohumeral rhythm plays a vital role in shoulder function and movement. We'll explain what it is and its significance in maintaining a healthy shoulder.

Rotator Cuff: An In-Depth Analysis

The rotator cuff is a critical group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. We'll dive into its anatomy, functions, and common problems associated with it.

Identifying a torn rotator cuff can be challenging, but we'll provide you with essential signs to look out for and when to seek professional evaluation.

Find out about diagnostic methods for a torn rotator cuff, including whether an MRI is always necessary for accurate diagnosis.

Discover the limitations and challenges you may face if you have a torn rotator cuff and how to manage arm movement during the healing process.

Learn about the possible relationship between a torn rotator cuff and shoulder blade pain, and what it indicates about your shoulder health.

Cortisone injections are sometimes used for shoulder pain, but their effectiveness in treating a torn rotator cuff is a point of interest we'll explore.

We'll provide practical tips and strategies to aid in the healing process of a torn rotator cuff and restore shoulder function more rapidly.

Shoulder Bursitis: Understanding the Condition

What is shoulder bursitis, and how does it differ from other shoulder injuries? Get insights into this inflammatory condition and how to manage it.

Recognising the distinct symptoms of shoulder bursitis can assist in early detection and prompt treatment.

Shoulder Impingement: Causes and Solutions

Understand the concept of the shoulder impingement zone and the factors contributing to rotator cuff impingement and bursitis.

Frozen Shoulder: Overcoming the Stiffness

Discover how to unfreeze a frozen shoulder and regain a full range of motion through effective therapeutic approaches.

Shoulder Dislocation/Instability: Seeking Stability

Explore the causes of shoulder dislocation and instability, and the fastest ways to promote healing and prevent future occurrences.

Find out about treatment options to address shoulder instability and regain stability in the joint.

AC Joint: Identifying and Managing Injuries

Learn how to recognise an injured AC joint and what steps to take for proper care and recovery.

Swimmers Shoulder: Causes and Remedies

If you're a swimmer or engage in repetitive overhead activities, understanding the causes of swimmer's shoulder and how to prevent it is essential.

We hope this comprehensive guide will prove invaluable in your journey to understand and manage shoulder pain and injuries. However, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice and treatment based on your specific condition. Let's dive into the world of shoulder health together!

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