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Shoulder Fracture

A shoulder fracture can be caused by a fall, car accident, blow to the shoulder or sports injury.

What is a shoulder fracture?

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that includes 3 bones: your collarbone (clavicle), upper arm bone (humerus) and shoulder blade (scapula).

If you have a shoulder fractures, it’s usually one of these bones that breaks.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder fracture?

Symptoms of a shoulder fracture include:

  • Pain
  • Grinding feeling when moving the shoulder
  • Difficulty in moving the shoulder
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness
  • ‘Bump’ where the fracture is

What causes a shoulder fracture?

The causes of your fracture can be different depending on the bone you fracture:

  • Clavicle fracture – usually caused by a direct blow / fall
  • Proximal humerus (top of the arm bone) fracture – age: this is more common in over-65s
  • Scapula fracture – this is the most rare shoulder fracture, and is caused by intense, high-speed trauma, such as a car accident

How is shoulder fracture diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, including details of any prior injuries.

They will ask you to move your shoulder in certain ways while they look for any problems in movement. To see whether you have a fracture and how many bones might be affected, they will order imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT scan, ultrasound or x-ray.

How is a shoulder fracture treated?

Your doctor will recommend some (or all) of the following:

  • Physical therapy (this usually means you meet with a physical therapist once to learn some gentle movement exercises, and can then continue with the exercises on your own at home to strengthen your shoulder muscles)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs and medications
  • Rest
  • Steroid injections into your shoulder (in some cases)
  • Joint distention treatment – your doctor injects sterile water into your shoulder to help improve your range of movement

If the above treatments don’t work, in very rare instances you might need surgery. You will be advised on the surgery that is best for you.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Andrew Sankey  ›

Mr Andrew Sankey is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in shoulder fracture at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have a shoulder fracture and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading shoulder specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Ms Susan Alexander  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 2) more
Mr Toby Baring  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 5) more
Mr David Butt  ›
Special interests include:
Sports injuries (+ 4) more
Mr Peter Reilly  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 1) more
Mr Andrew Sankey  ›
Special interests include:
Frozen shoulder (+ 15) more
Mr Andrew Wallace  ›
Special interests include:
Sports injuries (+ 4) more
Mr James White  ›
Special interests include:
Shoulder surgery (+ 5) more

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