A Detailed Look Into Shoulder Fractures
Shoulder trauma is very common because it’s caused by injuries that directly affect the area, such as falls, a collision, or vehicular accidents. So, it’s safe to say everyone will suffer from shoulder trauma at least once in their lifetime, and it can be caused by shoulder fractures, dislocations, or separations. Today, we will focus on shoulder fractures.
Shoulder fractures can be the result of trauma affecting the humerus, also known as the ball, or the glenoid, which is the socket of the joint. Most of the injuries that lead to shoulder fractures may need surgery to be treated, and this solution provides long-term and positive results.
When there’s the risk of arthritis if the fracture is left alone, it means that surgery is the best course of treatment. In some cases, shoulder fractures may heal in the wrong position or not heal at all if surgery is not performed. That’s why it’s the most effective way to treat such trauma.
Types of Shoulder Fractures
Shoulder fractures can be divided into two categories: displaced or non-displaced. A displaced shoulder fracture means that the pieces of broken bone have been separated and are no longer in the right anatomical position.
These are the kind of fractures that are best treated with surgery because the bones need to heal in the right position. These represent about 20% of shoulder fractures.
Non-displaced shoulder fractures are very different and it means the bones have stayed in the correct anatomical position. Luckily, most shoulder fractures are non-displaced, with a whopping 80%, which is good. This kind of shoulder fracture doesn’t require surgery for treatment, and all it needs is immobilization and about 6 weeks of time.
Symptoms of Shoulder Fractures
The symptoms of shoulder fractures will depend on the kind of fracture. Generally speaking, it leads to:
- Deformity or the presence of a bump
- Reduced shoulder range of motion
- Grinding sensation when the shoulder is moved
The seriousness of the symptoms will depend on how severe the fraction is and what part of the shoulder was affected. Still, they always involve pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, and some deformity. Nothing that can’t be corrected with the right medications and treatment, which is why it’s important to go to the doctor right away.
Treatment Options for Shoulder Fractures
Each shoulder fracture is unique somehow, but there are two treatment options available that can successfully and effectively treat a shoulder fracture. They are as follows:
- Medical Treatment
Non-displaced shoulder fractures more often than not only require immobilization, which means patients have to wear a sling for as long as the bone needs to heal comfortably.
Also, ice and pain medication is recommended for inflammation and pain management. A sling also prevents the patient from moving the area too much and causing further damage.
Of course, x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs are performed before immobilization (for diagnosis) and after an appropriate time period to determine if the bone has healed well enough.
If that’s the case, the patient has to perform motion exercises so they can regain full mobility. If the shoulder starts moving too soon, healing can be delayed, but little movement can also lead to stiffness, so doctors have to determine the right time for motion.
- Surgical Treatment
If you have a shoulder fracture that requires surgery, it’s likely because it’s a displaced fracture. That means that the pieces of broken bone need to be put together and brought to their rightful anatomical position. These surgical procedures make use of wires, plates, pins, or screws. You need to contact an orthopedic surgeon in your area.
If the fracture affected the ball of the shoulder and caused it to break, splint, or get crushed, then it may be necessary to replace the shoulder. After surgery, physical therapy is required, which includes stretches and assisted movements to recover mobility and rebuild strength.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shoulder Fractures
Q: What are the risks of shoulder surgery?
A: Some of the risks of shoulder surgery include issues with wound healing, infection, nerve or vessels injury, and bleeding. Sometimes, stiffness may occur. In certain cases, the fracture doesn’t heal and may require a second surgery.
Q: How do I prepare for shoulder surgery?
A: Before your surgery, you will have to go through lab work and pre-operative tests. Also, avoid taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds for a week before your surgery, call ahead of time to confirm the appointment, don’t drink or eat past midnight the night prior, and get someone to drive you home after surgery.
Q: What do I need on the day of the surgery?
A: If you are taking any meds, take them with just a sip of water and avoid eating or drinking anything else. You’ll want to leave any jewelry or body piercings at home, along with hairpins and contacts. Remove your makeup and nail polish, and make sure to wear comfortable loose-fitting clothes.
Q: What do I need after surgery?
A: You need to be comfortable and make sure you don’t forget the prescriptions. Get adequate pain meds and follow the indications of the surgeon and/or physical therapist. Your arm will be in a sling, so avoid moving it.
Q: How long does recovery take?
A: Well, it depends on how severe the injury was. During the first 10 days, you may need help eating, bathing, and getting dressed. You’ll also need pain meds to be comfortable.
Next, you will be examined and X-rays will be taken to determine the progress. How soon you’ll be back at work depends on whether you have a desk job or a labor-intensive occupation. For more information on recovery contact your orthopaedic surgeon.
Q: What is rehabilitation like?
A: Physical therapy involves activities and exercises that are simple and repetitive, but challenging enough to improve mobility and strength, which will maximize your recovery.
Q: How often should I schedule follow-up appointments?
A: After surgery, they will inform you how often you should show up for check-ups, where they will review your progress and take X-rays to determine the level of activity you’re ready to perform.