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Healing from a Shoulder Fracture: What to Expect

Healing from a Shoulder Fracture: What to Expect

Joint injuries require special care, especially complex and mobile joints like the shoulder. Untreated damage can haunt you years down the line, increasing your likelihood of developing wear-and-tear arthritis as you age. With proper diagnosis and rehabilitation, you can speed up your recovery and mitigate future problems. 

Dr. Philip Regala practices orthopedic medicine in Naples, Florida. His sports medicine specialty helps athletes and sports participants recover from injuries swiftly and minimize shoulder pain during recovery from a shoulder fracture.

Diagnosing shoulder injuries 

There are three main types of shoulder fractures. Some are relatively minor, while others are more severe.

1. Clavicle fracture

The clavicle or collarbone runs from the neck to the shoulder, and is one of the more vulnerable bones in the body. A clavicle fracture is easily recognized because there may be a visible bump at the front of the clavicle, and patients typically can’t raise their arm very high on that side. 

In many cases, ensuring the bones are aligned and binding the arm tight to the chest in a sling is the method of treatment, and the clavicle can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to fully heal. A complicated clavicle fracture could require surgical care and the insertion of a plate and screws to stabilize the collarbone.

2. Proximal humerus fracture

The humerus runs from the elbow to the shoulder, with the humeral head being the ball that fits into the socket of the shoulder joint. A fracture at or just below the humeral head isn’t uncommon in sports players or the elderly. 

If fragments of bone aren’t shifted out of place, the proximal humerus fracture can also be treated with an immobilizing brace and time. If fragments of bone are floating around inside the joint, arthroscopic surgery can be performed to remove them and stabilize the joint.

3. Scapula fracture

The scapula is the flat triangular bone in the upper back connecting the chest and the arm. These fractures are rarer than the other two types of shoulder fractures, and are usually due to a football incident or an auto accident.   

The fractured scapula can be immobilized in a sling for two weeks or more to give the bones time to heal. Surgery is usually only done if the bone fragments are badly misaligned. Reconditioning programs exist to help an athlete regain flexibility and range of motion. 

Things to do to aid shoulder fracture recovery

Since most treatments for shoulder fractures include a brace to immobilize the joint, the best thing you can do while recovering is be patient and don’t move your arm on that side any more than absolutely necessary.

Depending on your doctor’s recommendations, you may also use ice and over-the-counter pain medications to control discomfort. In most cases, some physical therapy after the bone has healed can help restore full mobility.

Have questions about shoulder pain? Make an appointment with Dr. Regala. To schedule a consultation, call 239-325-1131, or book online.

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