Shoulder Fractures


Shoulder fractures are common orthopedic injuries that can result from various causes, ranging from falls and sports injuries to car accidents. In this comprehensive article, we'll explore the different types of shoulder fractures, their causes, symptoms, diagnostic methods, and a range of treatment options. Whether you're experiencing shoulder pain or seeking information for a loved one, understanding these aspects can facilitate informed decision-making and effective management of shoulder fractures.

Causes of Shoulder Fractures

Shoulder fractures can occur due to direct trauma or indirect forces applied to the shoulder region. Common causes include falls onto an outstretched hand, direct blows to the shoulder or collarbone, sports-related injuries, motor vehicle accidents, and osteoporosis-related fractures in older adults. Understanding the underlying cause of the fracture is essential for determining the most appropriate treatment approach.

Symptoms of Shoulder Fractures

The symptoms of shoulder fractures may vary depending on the type and severity of the injury. Common symptoms include intense pain at the site of the fracture, swelling, bruising, deformity or misalignment of the shoulder, difficulty moving the arm or shoulder, and tenderness to touch. In severe cases, nerve or blood vessel damage may occur, leading to additional symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm or hand.

Investigations of Shoulder Fractures

Diagnosing shoulder fractures typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies. X-rays are commonly used to visualize the bones and assess the extent of the fracture. In some cases, additional imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI may be ordered to evaluate associated soft tissue injuries or assess the fracture's stability.

Types of Shoulder Fractures

  1. Clavicle Fractures:
    • Clavicle fractures are common and typically occur as a result of direct trauma, such as a fall onto the shoulder or an impact during sports.
    • These fractures can be classified as midshaft, lateral (distal), or medial (proximal) fractures based on their location along the clavicle.
    • Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the arm.
    • Treatment may involve immobilization with a sling for stable or minimally fractures, while displaced or significantly angulated fractures may require surgical fixation with plates, screws, or suture-button devices.
  2. Scapula Fractures:
    • Scapula fractures are less common but can occur due to high-energy trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents or falls from significant heights.
    • These fractures are often classified based on their location within the scapula, including body, neck, and glenoid fractures.
    • Symptoms may include pain, swelling, bruising, and limited shoulder movement.
    • Treatment depends on the severity and displacement of the fracture, with non-displaced fractures managed conservatively through immobilization and physical therapy, while displaced or unstable fractures may require surgical fixation.
  3. Proximal Humerus Fractures:
    • Proximal humerus fractures involve the upper end of the humerus bone near the shoulder joint and can vary widely in severity.
    • These fractures are commonly classified based on the number and displacement of fracture fragments, including two-part, three-part, and four-part fractures.
    • Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving the shoulder.
    • Treatment options range from conservative measures, such as immobilization and physical therapy, for stable or minimally displaced fractures, to surgical intervention, including open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF with screws, plates or intramedullary nail) or shoulder replacement, for displaced or complex fractures.
  4. Glenoid Fractures:
    • Glenoid fractures involve the shallow, socket-like portion of the scapula where the humerus articulates.
    • These fractures can occur as a result of high-energy trauma or dislocations of the shoulder joint.
    • Symptoms may include shoulder pain, instability, and limited range of motion.
    • Treatment depends on the extent of the fracture and associated injuries, with non-displaced fractures managed conservatively and displaced fractures requiring surgical fixation, often with the use of plates, screws, or sutures.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Fractures:

The treatment of shoulder fractures depends on various factors, including the type of fracture, its severity, and the patient's overall health and lifestyle. Non-surgical treatment options may include immobilization with a sling or brace, pain management, and physical therapy to restore range of motion and strength.

When do I Need Surgery for Shoulder Fractures?

Surgical intervention may be necessary for displaced or complex fractures to realign the bones and stabilize the shoulder joint. Surgical procedures may involve internal fixation with plates, screws, or pins, or in some cases, joint replacement surgery.


In conclusion, shoulder fractures encompass a spectrum of injuries that vary in severity and treatment requirements. Proper classification and management of these fractures are essential to optimize outcomes and restore shoulder function. If you suspect a shoulder fracture, seek prompt medical evaluation for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations based on the specific type and severity of the injury.

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820 Thomson Road #06-08
Mount Alvernia Medical Centre A
Singapore 574623

Monday to Friday: 0900 - 1730hrs
Closed on Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays