The shoulder is a complex joint that is composed of the upper humerus (arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collar bone). The humerus and scapula are a ball and socket joint. The clavicle meets the scapula at a bony projection from the scapula called the acromion.
The elbow is a hinge joint made up of the lower part of the humerus and the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna).
A fracture is simply a broken bone. Bones generally are rigid structures with some ability to bend and give. When a force exceeds the tolerable limits of the bone, the bone will break. Many types of fractures exist. They can be complete or partial. They can also crack in different directions and into a few, or sometimes multiple, pieces.
The amount of force that causes the break often determines the severity of the injury. If the force is only slightly more than the strength of the bone, a simple crack may be all that results. Sometimes in high-energy injuries such as car accidents or a fall from a tall height, the bone may completely shatter and be out of position (displace). On occasion, the bone can stick out of the skin. This type of fracture is called an “open” fracture and is a medical emergency because an infection can develop. Fractures also can be caused by osteoporosis (weakened bone). Due to the relative bone weakness, fractures can occur more easily – sometimes from nothing more than everyday activities. Other fracture causes include repetitive stress and overuse, as can be seen in athletes. These are called “stress fractures.”
Most often, fractures are very painful and prevent you from moving the injured area. Other common signs are swelling, tenderness, bruising, and deformity of the limb. Prompt medical evaluation is recommended. The most common way to determine if you have a fracture is with X-Rays. These can verify the diagnosis and show the type and location of the fracture.
When you have sustained a fracture, several factors determine the treatment options. These include the location of the injury, the type of fracture, and the stability of the involved bones. Your physician will also consider your age and overall medical condition when considering the best plan for you.
Treatment of upper extremity fractures is often successful without surgery, sometimes necessitating a brief period of immobilization in a sling, cast, or brace. However, if the injury is more severe, your fracture may require surgery to realign (reduce) the bones and hold them together. If you have broken the upper part of the humerus in your shoulder, the ideal treatment may even be a partial or complete shoulder replacement. It is essential to discuss with your surgeon the nature of your shoulder or elbow fracture and the treatment options available to you.
Recovery depends on the nature of your specific fracture. In general, it can take several weeks to several months for your fracture to heal. As your fracture heals, often, you can begin to resume more normal activity; however, it is essential to follow your doctor’s recommendations. Your surgeon will usually recommend therapy to help restore strength and range of motion, which are frequently diminished after injury.
At Town Center Orthopaedics, the surgeons and physical therapists work together to ensure each patient achieves a tailored treatment plan specific to their injury.
If you suspect that you may have sustained a fracture of your shoulder or elbow and would like to discuss treatment options, please book your appointment by phone or online today.
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