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Proximal Humerus Fractures

Proximal Humerus Fractures: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

A proximal humerus fracture occurs when the ball-shaped part of the upper arm bone breaks. Without treatment, these types of injuries may cause damage to tendons and joints near the arm bones, causing them to become painful or unstable after a long period.

Proximal humerus fractures are closer to the shoulder joint and exhibit different fracture patterns.

What Causes Proximal Humerus Fractures?

Most elderly people who suffer from proximal humerus fractures do so after falling onto their outstretched arm as they try to brace a fall. Individuals 60 years and older account for approximately 75 percent of proximal humerus fractures because, with age, bones are often more fragile and prone to breaking.

High-impact trauma, such as car accidents or high falls, is the leading cause of proximal humerus fractures in younger adults and children. However, Osteoporosis may also cause the bone to become fragile, increasing the fracture risk in individuals of any age.

Proximal Humerus Fractures Risk Factors

Although this fracture is more common in older people, it can happen to anyone. For example, it is more likely to occur if you have other bone-related risk factors like low bone mass. 

These circumstances include genetics, traumatic events, and overhead movement that may cause proximal humerus fractures. In addition, research shows that people with previous dislocation and hyperlaxity are at risk for the condition.

Symptoms of Proximal Humerus Fractures

While open wounds with bleeding are the most prominent symptoms of a proximal humerus fracture, there are other indicators. Some additional symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and tenderness around the shoulder
  • A lump that is not ordinarily present in the area
  • Problems lifting the arm
  • Grinding sensations during movement 

How Is a Proximal Humerus Fracture Diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose a proximal humerus fracture using a combination of methods, including a physical examination and imaging tests. An X-ray will reveal if your bones have fractures.

Your healthcare professional may also utilize magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to acquire a complete image to diagnose the bone damage severity. In addition, a CT scan will give your orthopedic doctor a more accurate picture of your bones and the surrounding tissue.

Treatment for a Proximal Humerus Fracture

Your orthopedic specialist may use several different methods to treat your proximal humerus fracture. Here are the various treatment options for this fracture: 

  • Immobilization
  • Closed Reduction 
  • Surgery


Following a nonsurgical treatment will require you to immobilize your arm with a sling for four to six weeks. It’s critical to wear the sling 24 hours a day. This way, the arm stays in its proper location during the healing process. You shouldn’t remove it until after four or five days of immobilization, depending on how much pain you’re experiencing.

Your doctor may also recommend applying an ice pack to the dislocated shoulder several times daily to reduce pain and swelling.   

Closed Reduction

Your doctor might perform a closed reduction to fix more severe fractures properly. During this non-invasive procedure, your doctor will manually align your broken bones using digital imaging to manipulate them to their ideal location.


If nonsurgical treatment doesn’t work or isn’t suitable, surgery could be necessary to fix the fracture. In addition, your doctor may recommend surgery if the shoulder has numerous fractures. 

Occasionally, surgeons may advise a complete shoulder replacement if the fracture is severe. The surgical process aims at tightening the stretched tendons and ligaments around your shoulder.

Surgery includes internal fixation with screws, pins, plates, or rods inserted through small incisions around your shoulder region. The metal plate holds the bone firmly as it heals. After undergoing surgery, injuries may take approximately six months to heal.

Proximal Humerus Fractures Recovery Time

Recovery time will vary depending on whether surgery is necessary and can take individuals anywhere from three months to one year to heal completely. For individuals recovering from surgery, avoiding crutches for more than two weeks after discharge from the hospital is advisable. 

How Can I Prevent Proximal Humerus Fractures? 

Wear the appropriate safety gear for your sport or activity to lessen your chances of hurting a shoulder. In addition, avoid any potential tripping hazards around your home or office.

Using appropriate equipment when reaching for things around the house can help prevent proximal humerus fractures. Consequently, it would help if you follow a healthy eating routine and regular exercise plan to keep your bones strong.

Expert Shoulder Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic

Raleigh Orthopaedic offers the finest and most modern treatment for proximal humerus fractures. Our shoulder specialists are committed to providing individualized care and have exceptional training to handle these types of injuries. Get in touch with us today to book an appointment at any of our office locations in Wake County, NC.

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