Shoulder Fracture

What is a Shoulder Fracture?

A shoulder fracture is a break in one of the shoulder bones, usually the collarbone or the top of the upper arm bone.

Falling and high-energy injuries, like a car crash or a contact sports injury, are the most common causes of shoulder fractures. In older people, shoulder fractures usually happen after falling. In younger people, high-energy injuries often cause shoulder fractures.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of a Shoulder Fracture?

  • Severe pain.
  • Swelling and bruising around the shoulder.
  • The bones look like they’re out of place (sometimes).

What Are the Treatments for a Shoulder Fracture?

The goal of treating a shoulder fracture is to position the bones in a way that helps the shoulder heal and restores the movement of the arm. The type of treatment depends on which bone is broken and how badly. Most shoulder fractures can be treated without surgery.

Treatments include:

  • A sling or shoulder stabilizer to keep the shoulder from moving while it heals.
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder and restore movement after the sling, shoulder stabilizer, or surgery.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
      • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
      • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.
    • Muscle relaxers for muscle spasms.
  • Surgery if a bone is very out of place or in pieces, or has broken through the skin:
    • Surgery to put the bone back in place. The surgeon usually uses plates, screws, and/or rods to keep the bone stable while it heals.
    • Shoulder replacement surgery to replace all or part of the damaged shoulder joint with an artificial one. This is rarely needed.