The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. It consists of a ‘ball’ at the upper arm bone (humerus) which fits into a socket (glenoid) that is part of the shoulder blade (scapula). Injury to the shoulder can fracture the proximal humerus, and depending on the type and severity of the fracture you may need to undergo operative or non-operative treatment. Proximal humerus fractures usually occur amongst older people with osteoporosis, but high energy trauma can cause fractures in younger people.
Often fractures can be treated non-operatively, which will require a supportive sling to be worn for 3-6 weeks. Physical therapy will involve practicing hand, wrist and elbow exercises with the sling removed, and this is done to prevent stiffness. To ensure bone fragments do not become displaced, X-rays will be taken at specified intervals. In cases of displaced fractures, surgery may be necessary.
Following a fracture and regardless of the type of treatment, most people experience reduced shoulder movement initially. It is important to manage this by performing a range of exercises as prescribed by your medical team. A course of physiotherapy will help you to regain a functional range of motion over time.
Sling immobilization should be maintained for at least 3 to 6 weeks post- surgery. Following surgeon review, you may be able to discard to sling and commence gentle range of motion exercises.
Home Shoulder Range of Motion Program
Specific exercise instruction will be provided to you by your medical team. A full recovery can take up to 12months.
Initially the aim is to restore movement whilst maintaining comfort. Once the fracture heals and your pain is manageable, then a graduated strengthening exercise program can start.