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.

broken shoulder physiotherapy to restore full shoulder function
Broken Shoulder Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Facilitates A Quicker Return To Normal Shoulder Function

Treatment for a 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.

Related Articles

  • Post-Fracture Physiotherapy: Focuses on rehabilitation services to promote healing and regain strength following fractures, directly applicable to a broken shoulder​​.
  • Shoulder Pain: This article covers various causes of shoulder pain, including muscle tightness, weakness, or abnormal contraction patterns, offering insights into identifying and managing these causes​​.
  • Rotator Cuff Injury: Explores symptoms like pain extending to the elbow and discomfort when lying on the affected shoulder, providing guidance on identifying and managing rotator cuff injuries​​.
  • Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain: Discusses the role of physiotherapy in alleviating discomfort, improving mobility, and optimising shoulder health, making it a valuable resource for those experiencing shoulder pain​​.
  • Rotator Cuff Tear: Addresses the causes, symptoms, and treatment of rotator cuff tears, which can occur from sudden trauma or repeated microtrauma, providing essential information for those affected by this injury​​.
  • Rotator Cuff Exercises: Highlights the importance of strengthening the rotator cuff for shoulder health and stability, offering exercise recommendations specifically for the rotator cuff​​.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Discusses symptoms of shoulder impingement and effective treatment strategies, focusing on how to manage this condition and prevent its worsening over time​​.
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy: Offers insights into this condition, which affects the tendons in the shoulder, leading to pain and limited mobility, and discusses various injuries to the rotator cuff tendons​​.
  • Sports Injury Physiotherapy: Provides immediate care for sports-related injuries, which could include shoulder fractures, focusing on quick recovery and preventing further damage​​.
  • Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy: Discusses comprehensive assessment and treatment for conditions like strains, sprains, and overuse injuries, relevant to shoulder fracture cases​​.

Shoulder Pain Causes

Common Injuries & Conditions

Understanding the common shoulder pain causes is crucial, as this discomfort can stem from various issues like rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, and frozen shoulder. Our guide offers a comprehensive exploration of these causes, providing insights into both acute and chronic conditions. It aims to equip you with knowledge and strategies for effective treatment and recovery, catering to those grappling with recent injuries or long-term pain. This resource is your go-to for navigating the complexities of shoulder pain and its management.

Shoulder Pain Causes
Shoulder Pain Causes

Rotator Cuff

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

  • Shoulder Impingement: A condition where shoulder tendons are pinched during arm movements, causing pain and limited mobility.
  • Shoulder Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac in the shoulder, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Swimmer’s Shoulder: An overuse injury common in swimmers, causing shoulder pain and impingement symptoms.

Shoulder Stiffness

Shoulder Instability

Acromioclavicular Joint

  • AC Joint Injury: Involves damage to the acromioclavicular joint, common in athletes and after falls.

Bone Conditions

Post-Operative Physiotherapy

Post-Operative Shoulder Rehabilitation: Essential for recovery, involving tailored exercises and therapies to regain strength and mobility after shoulder surgery.

  • Subacromial Decompression: A surgical procedure to alleviate shoulder impingement symptoms.
  • Shoulder Arthroscopy: Minimally invasive surgery for various shoulder conditions.
  • Acromioplasty: Surgery to reshape the acromion and relieve impingement.
  • Rotator Cuff Repair: Surgical repair of a torn rotator cuff.
  • SLAP Repair: Surgery to fix a specific type of labrum tear in the shoulder.
  • Biceps Tenodesis: Surgical procedure to reattach the biceps tendon.
  • Biceps Tenotomy: Involves cutting the biceps tendon to relieve pain.
  • Total Shoulder Replacement: Replacement of the shoulder joint with artificial components.

Muscle Conditions

Neck Arm Syndromes

Referred Pain: Pain in the shoulder that originates from another area of the body, such as the neck or spine.

  • Neck Arm Pain: Pain that originates in the neck and travels down to the arm and shoulder.
  • Cervical Radiculopathy: Occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated, leading to shoulder pain.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A condition where nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib are compressed, causing pain in the shoulder area.

Systemic Conditions

  • Fibromyalgia: A chronic condition characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, including in the shoulder.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that can cause joint pain and damage throughout the body, including the shoulders.

Shoulder Products & FAQs

Explore our range of shoulder products and find answers to frequently asked questions about shoulder pain and treatment options.

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.

shoulder pain guide
Shoulder Pain Guide

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.

Common Shoulder Injuries

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

More info: 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.

More info: What is Your Scapulohumeral Rhythm?

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.

More info: Rotator Cuff: An In-Depth Analysis

How Can You Tell If You Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff?

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.

More info: How Can You Tell If You Have Torn Your Rotator Cuff?

Can You Diagnose A Torn Rotator Cuff Without An MRI?

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

More info: Can You Diagnose A Torn Rotator Cuff Without An MRI?

Can You Lift Your Arm With A Rotator Cuff Tear?

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.

More info: Can You Lift Your Arm With A Rotator Cuff Tear?

Will Your Shoulder Blade Hurt With A Torn Rotator Cuff?

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

More info: Will Your Shoulder Blade Hurt With A Torn Rotator Cuff?

Will A Cortisone Injection Help A Torn Rotator Cuff?

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.

More info: Will A Cortisone Injection Help A Torn Rotator Cuff?

How Can You Make Your Rotator Cuff Heal Faster?

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

More info: How Can You Make Your Rotator Cuff Heal Faster?

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.

More info: Shoulder Bursitis: Understanding the Condition

Shoulder Impingement: Causes and Solutions

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

More info: Shoulder Impingement: Causes and Solutions

Frozen Shoulder: Overcoming the Stiffness

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

More info: Frozen Shoulder: Overcoming the Stiffness

Shoulder Dislocation/Instability: Seeking Stability

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

More info: Shoulder Dislocation/Instability: Seeking Stability

Can You Fix Shoulder Instability?

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

More info: Can You Fix Shoulder Instability?

AC Joint: Identifying and Managing Injuries

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

More info: AC Joint: Identifying and Managing Injuries

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.

More info: Swimmers Shoulder: Causes and Remedies

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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