Broken Bones of the Shoulder (Shoulder Fracture)

What is the difference between a broken bone and a fracture?

A fractured bone is a broken bone – there is no difference.

What does it mean to have a shoulder fracture?

The humerus or arm bone can be broken in several different places.  Where it is broken, how badly it is broken, and position of the broken bone pieces are important when thinking about treatment.

How can you tell if you have a broken bone in the shoulder?

After an injury, x-rays will be taken. Often additional imaging studies, such as a CT (computerized tomography) scan, are performed to better see the position of the broken bone pieces.

How are shoulder fractures treated?

There are some types of broken shoulder bones that can be treated without surgery. With the correct therapy and precautions, treatment without surgery can have excellent results.  Other types of broken shoulder bones may be better treated with surgery to increase the chance of the person recovering well. 

Regardless of whether surgery is performed or not, in order to get the best possible function and the lowest amount of pain following a broken shoulder, intense therapy is needed. This program begins on the day of the injury or right after surgery.

Therapy involves beginning Codman’s pendulum exercises as soon as possible after the broken bone, or after the surgery. Between the first and second week after the broken bone, range-of-motion exercises are begun. These will be done 5 times a day. This will be continued for 3 months. If surgery is chosen then range-of-motion begins right after surgery and will continue for three months.

Healing of a broken shoulder bone usually takes about six weeks. This six week period begins on the day the broken bone occurred or the day of surgery.

Normal shoulder

Shoulder fracture

After surgery-fixed with a plate and screws