The shoulder is made up of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), the clavicle (collar bone), and the humerus (upper arm bone). These three bones support the shoulder and help it function in a variety of ways.

  • The clavicle plays an important role in support and stability, as it is the only connection between the shoulder and the rest of the body’s skeleton.
  • The scapula is the main support structure for many muscles. It also contains the glenoid socket of the shoulder.
  • The upper arm bone, or the humerus, serves as an attachment point for many muscles and tendons. It has a head with a ball-like shape that stays in the glenoid socket of the shoulder.

A fracture in any of these parts can cause pain and create difficulty with the function of the shoulder. To find out more about shoulder fractures or to set up an appointment with expert orthopaedic surgeon Sonu Ahluwalia, M.D. contact us today.

Shoulder Fracture Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms caused by shoulder fractures are often related to the specific type of injury.

General findings following trauma or injury to the shoulder:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to move the shoulder
  • Locking, stuttering, or grinding of the shoulder
  • Shoulder looks deformed or displaced

Signs and Symptoms seen in a Clavicle Fracture:

  • Swelling near the middle of the collarbone area
  • A “bump,” which is actually the ends of the fracture prominent under the skin
  • Limited range of motion in the shoulder

Signs and Symptoms seen in a Proximal Humerus Fracture:

  • A severely swollen shoulder
  • Extremely limited, or no, range of motion in the shoulder
  • Severe pain in the shoulder

Signs and Symptoms seen in a Scapula Fracture:

  • Pain and swelling in the area
  • Severe bruising around the shoulder blade
  • Often associated with chest trauma

Shoulder Fracture Diagnosis

In order to reach the diagnosis of a shoulder fracture, your doctor will begin by examining your medical history with a focus on the incident that led to the symptoms you’re experiencing. This will be followed by a thorough physical examination and imaging studies.

Shoulder Fracture Surgery

Shoulder fracture surgery is performed by Dr. Ahluwalia using the open surgery technique. Open surgery can often be done through small incisions of just a few inches. These incisions allow the doctor to access the underlying shoulder structures. Dr. Ahluwalia will then assess the condition of the shoulder and re-assemble the fractured shoulder bone. Once this is done, he will fix the shoulder with a plate and screws to hold the bone in place.

Recovery from Shoulder Fracture Surgery

Following your shoulder fracture surgery you will be monitored in a recovery room until the effects of your anesthesia wear off. Depending on the extent of the procedure, you may stay in the hospital for 2-3 days before you can be discharged. Dr. Ahluwalia will examine you before you are discharged and discuss your recovery plan. This plan will likely include medication, rest, and physical therapy.

Physical therapy is arguably the most important part of a patient’s recovery. It is based on the goal of maintaining range of movement and gradually building strength as the shoulder returns to normal function. A standard physical therapy timeline following shoulder surgery is as follows:

Weeks 1-3

  • Arm immobilized
  • Wrist/hand/finger exercises
  • Shoulder girdle exercises
  • Scapula setting exercises
  • Passive range of motion in all directions

Weeks 3-6

  • Gentle exercises as pain allows
  • Sling will gradually no longer be needed
  • Begin active assisted exercises

Weeks 6-12

  • Progress to full active exercises in all ranges
  • Begin rotator cuff strengthening
  • Closed chain exercise

Shoulder Surgery Recovery FAQ

These are some of the most common questions we get asked in regards to returning to activities after shoulder surgery. Although everyone’s recovery is different, there is a general consensus among patients as to when certain activities can be resumed.

Q: When can I start driving?

A: Most patients report being able to comfortably operate a standard motor vehicle within 6-8 weeks following shoulder surgery.

Q: Can I go swimming?

A: Although many rehab exercises can be done in the pool, standard breaststroke swimming techniques may not be able to performed until 8-12 weeks after shoulder surgery.

Q: When I can play golf again?

A: We understand that practice makes perfect, but it is important to remember that the best technique will involve a smooth, fluid, and complete range of motion in your shoulder. This can take up to 6 months following shoulder surgery, although many people regain full range of motion in under 3 months.

Q: When can I begin lifting and weight training?

A: Light lifting can begin anywhere from 8-10 weeks. Heavy lifting, either for work or weight training, should not be performed until you are medically cleared to do so. This usually occurs 4-6 months after shoulder surgery.

Q: When can I return to work?

A: Most patients report being able to return to a standard, sedentary job within a few weeks of shoulder surgery. For patients with jobs that require strenuous activity and/or heavy lifting, it is important to wait until you are medically cleared to return to work. This will be evaluated at your post-operative follow up appointments.

Contact a Shoulder Surgeon in Beverly Hills

Looking for a top shoulder surgeon in the Los Angeles area? Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia is a leading expert in broken shoulder surgery and a variety of other minimally invasive orthopaedic surgery techniques. Don’t wait. Contact us today!