Shoulder Fracture 

You have a break (fracture) of the shoulder. Shoulder fractures can involve the clavicle, the upper part of the arm bone (proximal humerus), and the scapula. This may be a small crack in the bone. Or it may be a major break with the broken parts pushed out of position.

If you have only a small crack in the bone and no bone fragments are out of place, you will probably be treated with a shoulder immobilizer or sling. Casts are usually not used for this type of fracture. Your bone should heal in 6 to 10 weeks. More serious injuries may need surgery to put the bones back into the correct position for healing.

Home care

Follow these tips to care for yourself at home:

  • Leave the shoulder immobilizer in place. This will support the injured arm at your side. This is the best position for the bone to heal.

  • The shoulder immobilizer or sling is adjustable. If it becomes loose, adjust it so that your forearm is level with the ground (horizontal). Your hand should be level with your elbow.

  • Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours the first day. You can make an ice pack by putting ice cubes in a plastic bag. A bag of frozen peas or something similar works well too. Wrap the bag in a thin towel before putting it on your shoulder. Continue with ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 to 3 days. Then use the ice as needed to relieve pain and swelling.

  • You may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your doctor before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or digestive bleeding.

  • Don’t take the sling off before your next exam unless you were told to do so. Ask if you should move your elbow, wrist, and hand.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.  A shoulder joint will become stiff if left in a sling for too long. Ask your doctor when it is safe to start range-of-motion exercises.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

  • Your shoulder or upper arm swells a lot or looks very bruised

  • The pain in your shoulder gets worse

  • The splint or immobilizer breaks

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C), or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell