Fracture Treatment

What is shoulder fracture treatment?

There are three bones in your shoulder that can be fractured:

  • the clavicle (collarbone)
  • the scapula (shoulder blade) including the socket part at the top (glenoid cavity)
  • the proximal humerus (head of the upper arm bone)

Treatment of these fractures will depend on whether the bones remain in their correct anatomical position (non-displaced) or are out of place and separated (displaced). Around 80% of shoulder fractures are non-displaced and can be treated successfully without surgery. Non-surgical treatment involves non-drug therapy (eg a sling and physiotherapy) and medication (eg anti-inflammatories).

Displaced fractures often require surgery to realign the bones and hold them together while they heal.

Do I need surgery for my shoulder fracture?

Most people do not require surgery for a shoulder fracture. But if the bones are displaced, you will probably need surgery. Your doctor will advise you of the best treatment option for your situation.

How does fracture surgery work?

The surgical procedure will depend on the location and severity of the fracture. In general, surgery will involve moving the pieces of broken bone back into the right position, removing bone fragments that can’t be replaced, and securing the bones together. Screws and plates or pins are typically used fix the bones in place.

What to expect after shoulder fracture surgery?

Day 1 to 3 weeks

Your surgeon will provide you with specific post-op advice based on your particular surgery. Generally, you can expect to wear a sling, but still start your rehabilitation physiotherapy including:

  • wrist, hand and finger exercises
  • elbow flexion and extension and rotation exercises
  • shoulder girdle exercises
  • scapula setting exercises

It’s important not to force or stretch your shoulder during these exercises, as this can cause pain and delay healing.

3–6 weeks

During this period, you will wean off wearing the sling and continue your physiotherapy with:

  • gentle isometric exercises in neutral as pain allows
  • begin active assisted exercises ensuring glenohumeral movement, not scapulothoracic

At 4 weeks you should have at least 50% of the passive range of motion that you had before surgery.

If you have an office-style job, you can return to work as soon as you can manage.

6–12 weeks

After 6 weeks you will begin:

  • to progress to full active exercises in all ranges
  • rotator cuff strengthening (pain free)
  • closed chain exercise
  • stretching the capsule
  • proprioceptive exercises

Most people can start driving again between 6–8 weeks after surgery. You can begin swimming freestyle for exercise from 6 weeks.

By 12 weeks you should have both active and passive range of motion equal to your pre-op level. At this stage, you will probably be able to resume manual work, lift heavier objects and play golf. You may also be able to resume contact/impact sports. Your surgeon will advise you about what’s appropriate for you based on your recovery.