Important Things to Know About Elbow and Shoulder Fractures

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Fracturing one’s elbow or shoulders can be quite a painful experience. If you ever encounter this problem or you have to be there for someone that does, then knowing some important things about it may come in handy. 

Hence, in this article, we will be discussing some important things you need to know about elbow and shoulder fractures. We will discuss what they are, types of elbow fractures, and so much more. We will be considering both types of fractures individually to ensure a better and clearer understanding. 

Elbow Fractures

Fracturing the elbow can be quite painful. It can also make moving the elbow difficult or prevent movement altogether. The level of the injury can be mild or severe. The bone can crack into several pieces or 2 clean pieces. The pieces may either become displaced or stay in place. 

Types 

The types typically refer to the various places which a fracture can happen in the elbow. They include: 

1. Neck or Radial Head

This injury is complex and often requires surgery. The surgery is done to either stabilize and repair the broken bone or take it out and an implant is put in its place if it is beyond repair. 

With this injury, the pain increases if the palm is turned up or down. 

2. Distal Humerus

This is more common in elderly people and kids. It can also be caused by significant trauma. Arteries and nerves injuries may also accompany it. It also requires a surgical repair that involves screws and plates. 

3. Olecranon 

When this happens, surgery is often required. The fragments of the bone are realigned. Wires and pins or screws and plates are used to hold the fragments in place. 

Causes 

An elbow fracture can occur due to the following: 

  • Falling with the arm outstretched 
  • Falling onto the elbow
  • Getting a blow directly on the elbow

Symptoms

Some symptoms that accompany this injury include: 

  • A sound like a pop or snap may be heard during the injury
  • Bruising, swelling, and pain around and in the elbow
  • Numbness or weakness in the hand, wrist, and arm
  • Visible deformity 

Diagnoses

The following can be done to diagnose this injury:

  • Physical examination: This is used to see whether the affected area is tender or has cuts. 
  • The wrist and fingers will also be examined to ascertain whether or not nerves around the elbow have been injured. 
  • An X-ray will be done to see if the bones have fractured; and if it has, how badly. 
  • A CT scan may be needed depending on the injury severity.

Treatment

The treatment will be based on the injury severity and type. As we have said, surgery is often required. If the injury is an open one, then the surgery has to be urgent to mitigate the chances of infection. 

However, if the bones stay in position, a cast, splint, or sling may be all that will be required. Some of the surgical operations that could be done include:

  • Open reduction and internal fixation. You can visit here to learn more about this procedure. 
  • Bone fragments removal
  • Bone graft

Rehabilitation is vital to prevent stiffness and improve mobility. Some rehabilitation activities are exercises (the physiotherapist recommends them), scar massage, ultrasound, and so on. 

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Shoulder Fractures

Types

The types typically refer to the various places which a fracture can happen in the shoulder. They include: 

1. Proximal Humerus

These occur in the upper part of the arm. They are more common in persons over 65 years and in younger adults that suffered significant trauma. 

2. Scapula 

These aren’t as common since they are caused by trauma that is of high impact like having a road accident or falling off a great height. Chest injuries are often associated with them. 

3. Clavicle 

These are very common and happen just from falling onto one’s shoulder. 

Causes

This fracture can occur due to the following: 

  • Falling onto one’s shoulder heavily 
  • Receiving a blow directly on the shoulder due to a fall, collision, or road accident

Symptoms

Some symptoms that accompany this injury include: 

  • Bruising, swelling, and pain
  • Numbness or pain around the hand due to injuries sustained to the nerves around the shoulder 
  • Being unable to move one’s shoulder
  • You would feel a sensation much like grinding when you move your shoulder 
  • Shoulder deformity 

Clavicle fractures could have distinct symptoms such as:

  • Bruising and swelling on the collarbone
  • Pain when the shoulder is moved 
  • A bump may appear under your skin

Proximal humerus may have distinct symptoms such as:

  • The shoulder may swell up severely. This is often accompanied by excruciating pain
  • Limited shoulder movement

Scapular may have distinct symptoms such as:

  •  Pain that limits movement of the shoulder
  • Bruising around your shoulder blade

Diagnoses

The following can be done to diagnose this injury:

  • Physical examination: This is done to check whether the affected area is tender or has cuts.
  • The wrist and fingers will also be examined to see whether or not nerves around the elbow and shoulder were injured. 
  • An X-ray will be done. This is to see if the bones have fractured and if it has, how badly. 
  • A CT scan may be needed depending on the injury severity. 

Treatment

The treatment required is often based on the fracture type and just how severe it is. 

1. Clavicle

This can be treated with non-surgical procedures. Read this article https://www.britannica.com/science/ulna to learn more about the clavicle. A sling will have to be worn so that the arm stays immobile and allow healing to occur. For children, the healing process may take between 3 to 6 weeks, while an adult’s healing may take between 6 to 12 weeks. 

If the injury is an open one, that is the bones broke out of the skin, then surgery may be needed. 

2. Proximal Humerus

Surgery may or may not be needed for this fracture depending on just how severe the injury is. The shoulder may even have to be replaced if it is beyond repair. 

3. Scapula 

A shoulder immobilizer or sling may be used to prevent movement so that the injury can heal. However, between 10 to 20 percent of fractures of the scapula require surgery to hold the bone fragments with screws and plates. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the important things you need to know about elbow and shoulder fractures. 

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