A fractured shoulder may involve a broken collarbone (clavicle),
shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm (humerus), or the shoulder cup (glenoid).
This injury might occur when someone falls against an outstretched hand or
receives a direct blow to the shoulder.
Sprains, strains, or dislocations may occur at the same time as a
fracture. It may be hard to tell the difference between a bad sprain and a
Signs of a fracture may include:
A pop or snap heard or felt at the time of the
A shoulder that looks misshapen or out of its normal
A bone that is or was poking through the skin or is
visible in a wound (if it is an open fracture).
Symptoms of a fracture may include:
A grating sound or feeling.
that is likely to increase with shoulder or arm movement or when pressure is
applied to the area.
Swelling and bruising that appear within 30
minutes of the injury.
Limited shoulder movement (because of
weakness, not just pain) or new movement where there is no
Loss of normal feeling in the shoulder. The injured area may
feel numb and tingly.
Recovery time for a fracture varies depending on the person's age
and health and the type and severity of the fracture. A minor break in a
child's shoulder may heal completely in a few weeks. In an older person, a
serious fracture may require months to heal, and normal shoulder motion may
Initial treatment focuses on keeping the injured shoulder from
moving by using a sling or shoulder immobilizer, applying ice, and taking
measures to relieve pain. Early physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder and
regain motion is important for recovery. Surgery may be needed in some cases.
An untreated shoulder fracture may result in long-term pain, limited shoulder
movement, and deformity.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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