Shoulder Fracture


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A shoulder fracture refers to a break or crack in one or more of the bones that make up the shoulder joint. The shoulder is made up of three main bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). Fractures can occur in any of these bones, either individually or in combination.

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Causes & Symptoms

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Shoulder fractures can result from various causes, including:

  • Falls: Falling onto an outstretched arm or directly onto the shoulder can cause a fracture.
  • Direct Trauma: High-impact injuries, such as a motor vehicle accident or sports-related collision, can lead to fractures in the shoulder bones.
  • Repetitive Stress: Overuse or repetitive motion, particularly in athletes or individuals engaging in repetitive overhead activities, can lead to stress fractures in the shoulder.

The symptoms of a shoulder fracture can vary depending on the location and severity of the fracture, but common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain, often severe, at the site of the fracture
  • Swelling, bruising, and tenderness around the shoulder
  • Limited range of motion and difficulty moving the shoulder
  • Visible deformity or abnormal alignment of the shoulder
  • Crepitus (a grating or grinding sensation) during shoulder movement

Diagnosis and Treatment

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A healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist, will evaluate the injury through various methods, including:

  • Physical Examination: The doctor will assess the shoulder for tenderness, swelling, deformity, and range of motion.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays are typically used to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type and extent of the fracture. In some cases, additional imaging tests like CT scans or MRI scans may be ordered to get a more detailed view of the fracture or evaluate associated soft tissue injuries.

Treatment of a shoulder fracture depends on several factors, including the location and severity of the fracture, as well as the patient's overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Immobilization: In cases where the fracture is stable and the bones are well-aligned, immobilization with a sling, brace, or cast may be sufficient for proper healing.
  • Closed Reduction: If the fracture is displaced or requires realignment, a closed reduction may be performed. This involves manipulating the bones back into their proper position without surgical intervention.
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): For complex fractures or fractures that cannot be adequately realigned with a closed reduction, surgery may be necessary. During ORIF, the surgeon uses plates, screws, or other fixation devices to stabilize the fractured bones.
  • Rehabilitation: After the initial healing period, rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy are typically recommended to regain shoulder strength, range of motion, and function.

Post operative care

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Post-operative care following shoulder fracture treatment, whether it involves immobilization, closed reduction, or surgery, is crucial for optimal healing and recovery.

Take prescribed pain medications as directed by your doctor to manage post-operative pain.

If you have been given a sling, brace, or cast, it's important to wear it as instructed by your doctor.

Keep the surgical incisions or wounds clean and dry as directed by your surgeon. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are essential for restoring range of motion, strength, and function in the shoulder.