These are fractures involving the upper part of the arm bone – the “humerus”, and include the ball of the shoulder.
These fractures are very common in the elderly after trivial falls. They also occur in younger patients after severe injury – for example, road traffic accidents. Very rarely, there may be some underlying condition which weakens the bone and causes it to break with minor injury. These are called “pathological” fractures.
- There will be severe pain around the shoulder immediately after the injury. Any movement of the arm will cause the pain to worsen.
- The shape of the shoulder may look different, especially when you compare it with the normal side. There may be swelling around the shoulder.
- There may be extensive bruising and discolouration of the arm and around the elbow.
- In severe injury, there may be injury to the nerves and blood vessels
Your doctor will start off with a thorough clinical examination to look for any other injuries, and to ensure that there is no damage to any of the nerves and blood vessels around your shoulder.
An X-ray is necessary to confirm the fracture, and to check the pattern of the fracture. It will also help assess other injuries like dislocation of the joints and fractures of other bones (e.g. the collar bone).
Your Orthopaedic surgeon might also recommend a CT scan to get a detailed image of the fracture.
We strongly advise you to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a fracture of your shoulder. The goal of treatment is to restore normal function of the shoulder joint – which means painless movement of the shoulder once the fracture heals. This usually takes 2-3 months. Generally speaking, these fractures can be treated in one of the two following methods:
- Conservative treatment: a brief period of rest, followed by closely supervised physiotherapy
- Operative treatment: Surgery is followed by physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
Please speak to a shoulder specialist to know which type of treatment will be best for you. There are pros and cons to both conservative and operative treatment, and the ideal treatment is individualised as per the patient.