Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder Frcture Overview

The collar bone, upper arm bone and shoulder blade are the three shoulder bones. A shoulder fracture occurs when one or more of the bones break, usually after a serious accident or injury. A Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) should see a shoulder fracture as soon as possible. An effective treatment plan is prescribed so the bone(s) can heal as quickly as possible.

Symptoms & Causes

Shoulder fracture symptoms include:

  • A grinding sensation when the shoulder moves (crepitus)
  • A visible shoulder lump
  • Bruising, pain and swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty raising the arm

The most common shoulder fracture causes are:

  • Falls
  • Forceful blows to the shoulder
  • High-speed collisions (including sports collisions)
  • Motor vehicle accidents

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat nondisplaced shoulder fractures (the bones are still anatomically aligned after the fracture). After a thorough evaluation, a CONA shoulder specialist may recommend:

  • Immobilization in a comfortable sling
  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Rest and ice\

Physical therapy may be prescribed after the fracture heals. Patients regain shoulder strength, flexibility and function during one-on-one physical therapy sessions.

Surgery is commonly recommended to treat displaced fractures (the bone is not anatomically aligned after the fracture). During an open reduction internal procedure (ORIF), a CONA specialist aligns and fixates the fractured bone(s).


X-rays are the most important part of a diagnosis. Multiple view x-rays show the CONA specialist the shoulder bones from different angles so a fracture can be diagnosed.

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