A Broken Shoulder Guide

A broken shoulder is a serious injury, which will need medical treatment. This short guide to a fractured shoulder, will explain the symptoms, causes and treatment

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What is a Broken Shoulder?

A broken shoulder is a break in the humerus, the bone which runs between your shoulder and elbow, the collarbone, or the shoulder blade. When the fracture of one of the shoulder bones is close to, or on the ball of the shoulder joint, it is classified as a fractured shoulder.

Broken Shoulder Key Facts

When we talk about a broken shoulder bone we are actually discussing three separate, yet similar injuries. Each of these injuries is basically a fracture to one of the three bones of the shoulder, but of a different bone. Broken shoulder pictures show the following three types of broken shoulder:

1). Clavicle Fracture – your clavicle is the long, thin bone that runs from your neck to your shoulder joint. Usually going by the common name of the collarbone, this is a very common broken shoulder in elderly Blunt trauma is the usual reason for a broken clavicle. Of the three shoulder bones, the clavicle (collarbone) is by far the most often fractured.

2). Proximal Humerus Fracture – this is the term for a fracture at the top of the long bone that runs up from your elbow to your shoulder joint. The break will be at, or just below the joint. Proximal humerus fracture healing time can be longer than the standard 8 weeks quoted for most broken shoulder injuries, as it is a large bone, which is hard to immobilise.

3). Scapula Fracture – this is the large, triangular bone in your back, that we usually refer to as the shoulder blade. This bone connects the shoulder to the arm to the chest, providing additional strength to the shoulder. The scapula is especially liable to damage during sporting activities.

The graph bellows shows the relation between these three different types of broken shoulder injuries and which is more common.

Broken Shoulder Graph

Broken Shoulder Graph

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Shoulder?

Due to the fact that the shoulder is a large joint, which is connected to some of the biggest bones in our body, broken shoulder symptoms can be hard to pin down to an exact location. A broken shoulder hurts, but it can be tricky to pinpoint the root of this pain. Below is a list of the most common fractured shoulder symptoms:

  • Pain – this can be directly on the shoulder, or it may be in the back or even the chest. This is a major symptom but one which is hard to pinpoint exactly. Many people feel this pain, and ask have I broken my shoulder? Because the pain is so generalised.
  • Swelling – as with pain, swelling of a broken shoulder might not actually be right on the shoulder. It could be on the upper back or even the chest.
  • Unable to move arm – either due to intense pain when you try or the simple inability of the shoulder joint to function due to damage.
  • Difficult breathing – either due to pain as each breath is taken or through a tightening of the chest.
  • Deformity – you may be able to see that your shoulder is misshapen.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Broken Shoulder?

It takes quite a lot of force to break a shoulder. Even the collarbone is a large, tough bone, even though it is the most likely of all shoulder bones to fracture. Typical causes of a broken shoulder include:

  • Car, motorcycle or bicycle accidents – a high-speed motor vehicle accident can easily cause blunt trauma with sufficient force to break even the tough shoulder blade.
  • Unbroken falls – especially from a moderate height, where the sufferer has landed on their shoulder or upper arm.
  • Slips, trips or falls – such as tripping over a paving slab. Broken shoulder elderly statistics show this as the most common cause of a fractured shoulder in the over 65’s
  • Physical violence – when a blunt instrument is used, sufficient blunt trauma force can break the shoulder.

When Should You Seek Medical Care for a Broken Shoulder?

As we have seen so far, it can be fairly tricky to actually pin down the exact symptoms for such a large, complex joint as the shoulder. If you have recently hurt your shoulder, and you exhibit any of the below symptoms, then you should seek broken shoulder NHS treatment immediately.

  • Pain when you try to move your shoulder.
  • Swelling of the shoulder, or upper back and chest close to the shoulder.
  • Bruising of the tissue on or around the shoulder.
  • Shoulder pain which does not subside within 5 days.

How to Get a Free Expert Orthopaedic Assessment for Your Broken Bone Report

Whilst you are receiving fractured shoulder NHS treatment, a key event along the treatment timeline is the creation of a broken bone report for your injury. Once you have had a broken shoulder x ray or MRI scan, your doctor will use the results to create a unique broken bone report of your injury. This report is used by specialists to decide just what type of broken shoulder treatment is best in your case.

You are able to request a copy of your broken bone report for your broken shoulder. We could be able to put you in touch with a specialist who will give you a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured shoulder broken bone report. A free expert opinion will help you discern whether you are receiving the best treatment for your injury. Call us now, and we can let you know almost immediately if you can receive a free expert orthopaedic assessment of your fractured shoulder based on your postcode.

How is a Broken Shoulder Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing a broken shoulder is a medical examination performed by a doctor. The doctor will examine your shoulder, and decide whether they think you might have a broken shoulder. If they do, then you will move on to the next step in full diagnosis of a fractured shoulder.

A broken shoulder x ray will be taken, so that the doctor can see which bones have been fractured, and how badly.

In some cases, especially when a hairline fracture of the shoulder is suspected, the doctor may call for a CT or MRI scan. Both of these procedures are far better at finding small fractures than a broken shoulder x ray.

How is a Broken Shoulder Treated?

The fractured shoulder treatment that you are given will depend upon which type of fracture you have, and how severe it is.

Minor injuries, most commonly fractures of the collarbone, are treated with minimal intervention. Pain medication will be given to the patient, and a specially shaped strap that compresses the collarbone is applied. The arm is then immobilised using a broken shoulder sling.

For more serious injuries, fractured shoulder surgery will be needed to rebuild the structure of the shoulder joint so that the bones can begin to heal. An orthopaedic surgeon will perform shattered shoulder surgery to realign the bones of the shoulder. Once this is done, the shoulder itself will be immobilized using a broken shoulder cast and the arm will also be immobilised using a broken shoulder sling.

What Free Private Treatment Can I Qualify For?

If you have gone through surgery for fractured shoulder reconstruction, you are no doubt hoping that you will have a fractured shoulder recovery that is both quick and complete.

NHS treatment is effective, but private medical treatment could make your fractured shoulder recovery time shorter.

Depending on where you live, there could be some form of free private medical care that you could be eligible for in your area. Call us now, and we can let you know almost immediately whether you could get some free private health care for your fractured shoulder.

Caring for Your Broken Shoulder at Home

When it comes to broken shoulder recovery time elderly people will reduce their broken humerus recovery time if they care for their injury properly one they have been sent home from the hospital. The tips below will help every patient to ensure that they make a swift and full recovery:

  • Rest your shoulder – at least for the first couple of weeks, you need to keep the arm and the shoulder as still as possible. This is best done laying down. Don’t be tempted to try and continue with your normal life, even though you can still walk. Your shoulder needs time to start healing, and in this key stage immobility is the best treatment. Many people cannot work out how to sleep with a broken shoulder. This is actually a pretty simple problem to solve. The simple answer is that laying on your back would be best, but any position is fine as long as it is not causing you pain in your damaged shoulder.
  • Manage the pain – you can use over-the-counter painkillers if your fractured shoulder is painful during the first few weeks. However, if the pain increases, you should consult your doctor immediately.
  • Watch for complications – if the skin on or around your shoulder changes colour, or there are signs of infection during your broken shoulder surgery recovery you will need to contact your doctor.
  • Prepare for your rehabilitation – after the first 3 to 4 weeks, ask your doctor if there are any fractured shoulder recovery exercises you could be doing in preparation for your cast or sling coming off.

Is There Any Other Good Treatment I Can Get for Free?

There may be some additional form of private medical care or support available in your area. For example, you may be able to gain access to free medical supplies such as a specially fitted broken shoulder sling.

Call us today, all we need to do is take your postcode, and then we can let you know almost immediately whether there is any free private medical assistance in your area.

Follow Up for a Broken Shoulder

Whilst you are recovering from your fractured shoulder, you will have to visit the hospital every 2 to 3 weeks. If you have had surgery as part of the treatment for your fractured shoulder, you will be seen by an orthopaedic surgeon to make sure there is no infection, and that the surgical fixings used to pin the bones in place have not moved.

Toward the end of your recovery time, your doctor will begin to discuss your rehabilitation, and his plans for getting you some physiotherapy to get you back functioning at 100%.

How Long Does a Broken Shoulder Take to Heal?

For simple fractures, which did not require surgery to correct, then broken shoulder healing time will generally be within 6 weeks. However, this is only the timeline in which the sling will come off, and you will be free to use your shoulder. There could be weeks or even months of physiotherapy ahead to get your shoulder functioning at 100% again.

For complex fractures, broken shoulder surgery recovery time is 6 to 8 weeks in general, although in exceptionally severe cases, it may be longer. And as with simple fractures, a period of rehabilitation will follow, requiring physio to build shoulder and arm strength and dexterity again.

How Can I Recover Safer and Possibly Faster?

A fractured shoulder is a serious injury which will always require that your arm is immobilised fully for a minimum of 6 weeks. During this time, the arm will weaken, and the muscles will waste. You will need broken shoulder exercises to regain the full use of your arm and your shoulder.

Private physiotherapy would be a good augmentation to your NHS treatment. There might be some free private physio available in your area to help with your broken shoulder rehabilitation.

If you give is a quick call, we can take your postcode, and let you know straight away if there is some free physiotherapy for your shoulder injury available in your area.

What is the Prognosis for a Broken Shoulder?

For same fractures of the collarbone or shoulder blade, then the prognosis is good. Most people make a full recovery within 6 to 8 weeks and with a short period of rehabilitation and physio.

More serious fractures, such as a broken shoulder ball joint that has required surgery, don’t have such a good prognosis, as there are a number of complications which could develop during recovery.

Overall, most people recover from a fractured shoulder well, with little or no long-term effects.

What are the Possible Complications of a Broken Shoulder?

A broken shoulder ball joint is a very serious injury, affecting the second largest joint in your body. Therefore, even minor complications could have significant negative effects on your health. The main complications which are encountered by people who are recovering from a fractured shoulder are:

  • Loss of function – where the shoulder joint has a reduced range of motion. Physiotherapy and possibly corrective surgery can sometimes help with this problem.
  • Reduced strength – where the shoulder joint has healed but lacks the original strength it had prior to the injury. This is usually caused by damage to the nerves and muscles that connect to the shoulder joint.
  • Constant shoulder pain – if the shoulder bones do not heal straight, or one or more nerves have been kinked or damaged, ongoing pain may be encountered.

Do You Think Your Doctor Might Have Missed Something About Your Injury?

Whilst you are being treated by the NHS for a fractured shoulder, you may begin to suspect that a mistake with your treatment has been made, or that you have not been given the optimal treatment for your specific injury. If you think there has been some sort of medical malpractice during your treatment, you will need to educate yourself fully about your injury, so that you can make an informed judgment. All of the websites below have additional information about broken shoulder injuries and associated treatments:

Shoulder Pain Information – NHS

Broken Collarbone Information – NHS

Fractured Shoulder Information – Northern Devon Healthcare

Are There Any Long-Term Health Issues Caused by a Broken Shoulder?

Your shoulder joint is the most used joint in your body. Therefore, any long-term negative health effects of a broken shoulder could seriously affect your quality of life.

The single most common long-term effect of recovering from a fractured shoulder is the onset of arthritis. Arthritis of the shoulder joint is a serious, painful condition. Arthritis occurs due to the bones of the shoulder producing bone scar tissue as they heal. This scar tissue wears away at the cartilage which helps to keep a joint working smoothly.

When this happens, the bones of the shoulder start to make contact as the move in the socket, and this leads to pain and stiffness. In some cases, the cartilage can be partly repaired using surgery. Anti-inflammatory medication is also a good treatment.

Unfortunately, in severe cases, there is no really effective treatment. A shoulder cannot be replaced with a prosthesis in the same way a doctor can perform a hip or knee replacement. Pain management is often the only real alternative for people suffering from chronic arthritis in their shoulder following a fractured shoulder injury.

Contact Us to Find Out if You Qualify for Free Private Treatment

If you have recently been under NHS treatment for a broken shoulder, then you probably want to make sure you have the best chance of making a full recovery in as little time possible. NHS treatment is effective, but private medical care is better.

We might be able to help you gain access to some free private medical care in your area. This could simply be free medical supplies, such as a high-quality sling to immobilise your arm whilst your shoulder heals. It could be in the form of an expert opinion to get you a free orthopaedic assessment of your broken bone report. It might be something that can help you with your rehabilitation once your sling comes off, such as some free private physiotherapy.

If you would like to know if there is any free private medical care in your area, then all you need to do is call us up and give us your postcode. We will then be able to find out what free treatment you could have access too, and point you in the right direction so that you can claim it. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, so call us today.