A shoulder fracture is a common injury that we see in our New Jersey offices. The term “fracture” means that a bone in the shoulder has broken. There isn’t only one bone in the shoulder. This joint is quite complex, with a bone coming from the upper arm (the humerus), one coming from the shoulder blade (the scapula), and one resting adjacent to the front of the shoulder (the collarbone). The humerus from the upper arm has a ball-like end. This sits in the socket of the scapula. It is this “ball and socket” situation that helps the shoulder move in a wide range of motion.
When a shoulder fracture occurs, it could affect one of these three bones:
- Clavicle fracture, or a break in the collarbone, is the most common type of shoulder fracture. This injury typically occurs during a fall.
- Proximal humerus fracture occurs in the upper arm, not necessary in the “ball” portion of the humerus. When this bone is cracked or broken, it can cause the upper end of the humerus to move out of position within the scapula socket. Proximal humerus fractures are more common in older adults.
- Scapula fractures are quite uncommon. Usually, this type of shoulder fracture is associated with a severe fall, auto accident, other traumatic event.
Signs of a Shoulder Fracture
If you fall or experience an accident, you expect to feel pain in different parts of your body. How do you know when you should see a doctor for a potential shoulder fracture? Signs of a broken bone in this body part include:
- A broken scapula may inhibit your ability to raise your arm.
- Pain in the chest and shoulder blade may also occur if the scapula is broken.
- A broken clavicle, or collarbone, may cause a bump or bruise directly over the fracture.
- It may be difficult to move the arm on the side of the broken collarbone.
- A fractured proximal humerus will also inhibit shoulder movement.
- This type of break can also cause numbness or tingling in the hands.
If you’ve suffered a shoulder injury and suspect a possible fracture, schedule a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder and hand injuries. Often, it is possible to repair the break with splinting. If surgery is needed, our physicians take time to explain the particulars and assure patients that their comfort is our priority.