Treatment of Shoulder and Elbow Fractures

Treatment of Shoulder Fracture

What is a Shoulder Fracture?

A break in a bone that makes up the shoulder joint is called a shoulder fracture.

Types of Fractures

The clavicle and end of the humerus closest to the shoulder are the bones that usually get fractured. The scapula on the other hand is not easily fractured because of its protective cover by the surrounding muscles and chest tissue.

Causes of Shoulder Fracture

Clavicle and humerus fractures can occur by a direct hit from a motor vehicle accident, collision or fall. A fracture of the scapula can occur by high-energy trauma during an accident from a high-speed motor vehicle.

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Fracture

The common signs and symptoms of shoulder fracture may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Difficulty in lifting your arm
  • Numbness, tingling or coldness of the hand and forearm
  • Popping sound, also referred to as crepitus, heard or felt at the time of the fracture

Diagnosis of Shoulder Fracture

A shoulder fracture is usually diagnosed based on a thorough physical examination, and imaging studies such as X-rays and CT scans.

Treatments for Shoulder Fractures

The treatment for a shoulder fracture is based on the type of fracture. Treatment can include non-surgical and surgical methods.

A broken clavicle bone usually heals without surgery. Non-surgical treatments for shoulder fractures may include immobilization by placing your arm in a sling, pain medication and physical therapy. If the fracture has led to the displacement of the bones, then surgery may be required to correct and fix them with pins, plates or screws. Post-surgery, physical therapy may be recommended to aid in the recovery, and improve range-of-motion and strength of the arm.

Treatment of Elbow Fractures

What are Elbow Fractures?

Three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna, make up the elbow joint. Elbow fractures may occur from trauma, resulting from various reasons; a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow, or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit.

What are the types of Elbow Fractures?

The types of elbow fractures include:

  • Radial head and neck fractures : Fractures in the head portion of the radius bone are referred to as radial head and neck fractures.
  • Olecranon fractures : These are the most common elbow fractures, occurring at the bony prominence of the ulna.
  • Distal humerus fractures : These fractures are common in children and elderly people. Nerves and arteries in the joint may sometimes be injured in these fractures.

Symptoms of Elbow Fractures

Symptoms of an elbow fracture include pain, bruising, stiffness, swelling in and around the elbow, a popping or cracking sound, numbness or weakness in the arm, wrist and hand, and deformity of the elbow bones.

Diagnosis of Elbow Fractures

To diagnose an elbow fracture, X-rays of the joint are taken. In some cases, a CT scan may be needed to view the details of the joint surface.

Treatment Options for Elbow Fractures

The aim of treatment is to maximize early motion and to reduce the risk of stiffness. Non-surgical treatment options include pain medication, ice application, the use of a splint or a sling to immobilize the elbow during the healing process and physical therapy. Surgery is indicated in displaced and open fractures to realign the bones and stabilize the joint with screws, plates, pins and wires. Strengthening exercises are recommended to improve the range of motion.