Proximal Humerus Fracture (Broken Shoulder)

Proximal Humerus Fracture (Broken Shoulder)

A proximal humerus fracture can be a serious shoulder injury. This article will walk you through what the injury involves and how it is often treated.

Overview of a proximal humerus fracture

The ball-and-socket shoulder joint is formed where the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) meets the socket of the shoulder blade (glenoid). When the ball of the humerus breaks, the injury is called a proximal humerus fracture.

This injury is common among older adults who are more prone to fall and suffer fractures due to conditions that weaken bones, like osteoporosis. Any sort of hard blow to the shoulder can result in a proximal humerus fracture, though.

In some cases, the humerus is displaced by the force of the injury. Displaced fractures are typically more challenging to treat because the bone is no longer in its normal alignment. Non-displaced fractures occur when the humerus has broken but remains in its original position.

While a proximal humerus fracture is a serious shoulder injury, it can usually be repaired with prompt medical treatment. 

Causes of a proximal humerus fracture

A proximal humerus fracture typically occurs as the result of a direct blow to the shoulder that causes the bone to fracture. Falls and sports injuries are among the most common causes of this kind of fracture. Those involved in contact sports with a higher risk of injury are also often more likely to experience this kind of fracture.

Some common risk factors that make people more susceptible to fractures in the shoulder include age and weaker bones. Older adults and those with conditions like osteoporosis are more likely to suffer fractures than those with younger, healthier bones. Proximal humerus fractures are fairly common among older adults.

Symptoms of a proximal humerus fracture

Common symptoms of a proximal humerus fracture include

  •       Intense pain in the shoulder
  •       Swelling
  •       Bruising
  •       Difficulty moving the shoulder
  •       Limited range of motion

If you have recently fallen or suffered an injury and are experiencing these symptoms, reach out to medical professionals to prevent the injury from getting worse.

Treatment for a proximal humerus fracture

The course of treatment for a proximal humerus fracture largely depends on whether the bone has been displaced or not. If the bone is not displaced, common conservative treatments include

  •       Wearing a sling or other immobilization device
  •       Physical therapy exercises to stretch and strengthen the affected shoulder
  •       Pain relievers

If the bone has been displaced, surgery may be necessary to repair it and restore the functioning of the shoulder. Surgical procedures for a displaced fracture can be riskier for older adults, so a surgeon will discuss the risks and make a recommendation based on the patient’s individual case.

Surgery for a proximal humerus fracture typically involves securing the bone in its original position with screws, pins, or plates. This procedure is called open reduction internal fixation and is used in cases of severe fracture where the bones must be properly realigned. In some cases, the ball of the shoulder joint itself may need to be replaced.

An orthopaedic surgeon will determine the exact course of treatment based on your individual situation.

Treating a proximal humerus fracture at OAR

Fractures can be serious if left untreated. At OAR, our team of compassionate orthopaedic specialists are committed to offering innovative, effective treatments to help you heal from a shoulder injury and get back to your normal life.

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.

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