Fractures of the Shoulder

Fractures of the shoulder refer to a break or crack in one of the bones that make up the shoulder joint. The shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone). Fractures can occur in any of these bones, but the most common is a fracture of the proximal humerus, which is the upper part of the humerus that connects to the shoulder joint.

Causes of Fractures of the Shoulder

Fractures of the shoulder can be caused by a variety of factors including:

Trauma: A fall, sports injury, car accident, or other traumatic event can cause a fracture of the shoulder.

Osteoporosis: A condition that weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to fractures.

Overuse: Repetitive stress and strain on the shoulder joint, such as throwing a baseball or lifting heavy weights, can lead to stress fractures.

Cancer: Tumors that weaken the bones can also lead to fractures of the shoulder.

Aging: As we age, our bones become weaker and more prone to fractures, including those of the shoulder.

Signs and Symptoms of Fractures of the Shoulder

The signs and symptoms of a shoulder fracture can vary depending on the severity of the injury, but may include:

  • Pain: The most common symptom of a shoulder fracture is pain that is severe and may be constant.
  • Swelling: Swelling around the shoulder joint is also common and may be accompanied by bruising.
  • Limited range of motion: The ability to move the arm may be limited due to the pain and swelling.
  • Deformity: In some cases, a visible deformity or bump may be present near the site of the fracture.
  • Numbness or tingling: If a nerve is affected by the fracture, numbness or tingling may be felt in the arm or hand.
  • Weakness: Difficulty using the arm or lifting objects is also common.

If you suspect you have a shoulder fracture, it’s important to seek medical attention right away to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment for Fractures of the Shoulder

The physiotherapy treatment for a shoulder fracture depends on the severity and location of the fracture, as well as the overall health of the patient. The goals of physiotherapy treatment for shoulder fractures are to reduce pain and swelling, restore the range of motion, and improve the strength and function of the affected arm.

In the acute phase of treatment, physiotherapy may focus on reducing pain and swelling through modalities such as ice or heat therapy, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound. Once the pain and swelling have subsided, the focus of treatment may shift to regaining range of motion through stretching and mobility exercises. Strengthening exercises may also be prescribed to improve the strength and function of the affected arm.

For more severe fractures or those that require surgical intervention, physiotherapy may also play a role in post-operative rehabilitation. In this case, physiotherapy may begin shortly after surgery and focus on protecting the healing bone while gradually increasing the range of motion and strength exercises.

It’s important to note that the specific treatment plan will vary based on the individual patient and their unique injury. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a qualified physiotherapist or healthcare professional to receive a customized treatment plan.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about fractures of the shoulder please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Yan, T., Li, H., Zhang, Q., Wang, Y., & Yin, Y. (2020). The role of early physiotherapy in the management of shoulder fractures: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research

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