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Fractures of the Shoulder Bones 

Shoulder fractures occur as a result of trauma or injury to any of the bones that make up the shoulder.  The shoulder is made up of a group of bones including the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle) and shoulder blade (scapula). A fracture of any of the bones in the shoulder can greatly impair a person’s mobility and cause severe pain. Fractures are described as being either displaced (when pieces of the bone are broken and fragments have moved out of position) or non-displaced (when the bones stay in the correct position). About 80% of all shoulder fractures are non-displaced. 

Causes of Fractures of the Shoulder Bones 

Most shoulder fractures occur as a result of some sort of trauma, injury or direct blow to the shoulder. Common examples include: 

  • A fall 
  • A sports injury 
  • An automobile or motorcycle accident 

Symptoms of Fractures of the Shoulder Bones 

A person may have fractured a shoulder bone if they experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Shoulder pain 
  • Swelling or redness 
  • Tenderness or pain to the touch 
  • A deformity or "bump" at the site of the fracture 
  • Bruising or discoloration around the upper arm 
  • A feeling that the shoulder is slipping out of place 
  • Inability to normally move the arm without pain 

Diagnosis of Fractures of the Shoulder Bones 

The best way for doctors to diagnose fractures of the shoulder bones and determine their location and severity is through imaging tests. These include: 

  • X-rays 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasound 

Treatments for Fractures of the Shoulder Bones 

Treatment for a shoulder fracture will mostly depend on whether the break is displaced or non-displaced. For most non-displaced fractures of the shoulders, conservative treatment options are used, such as: 

  • Icing 
  • Immobilization 
  • Pain medication 
  • Physical therapy, once the bones have started to heal 

If the fracture is displaced, surgical repair procedures may be necessary to properly bring the pieces together.