Because the anatomy around the shoulder is so complex, shoulder fractures come in a variety of shapes, sizes and presentations. Each one requires a unique approach. Each demands close attention to detail and an evaluation of its distinct character in order to get you better.
Additionally some can be treated with minimal intervention and others require complex reconstruction. The 3 main bones about the shoulder may fracture in a tremendous number of patterns, so keep in mind that your road to healing may differ significantly from other people who may have had a shoulder fracture.
Rather than expound on every conceivable fracture pattern in this space, I want to touch on some of the more emotional, less concrete aspects of sustaining a shoulder fracture. Invariably if you or someone you know has recently sustained a shoulder fracture they may be experiencing some of the adjustment issues that I will mention. And hopefully a little knowledge will help you through this.
Shoulder Fractures: Unexpected and Life Changing
When you break a bone, it occurs unexpectedly: one day you are at the top of your game, the next day you are hobbled for perhaps months.
It’s this suddenness, this drastic change in your normal course of daily life that makes dealing with a broken shoulder so challenging. If you do not have close family support (or even if you do) you may find the lack of independence in the initial period after a fracture unsettling.
Shoulder fractures are uniquely challenging. While they do not affect your ability to walk, they do impact your ability to perform many daily activities such as sleeping, dressing and driving. Nobody wants to ask for help with things like dressing him or herself. It can seem like an imposition or even embarrassing. Nobody wants to lose the freedom they have from being able to drive- sometimes your job depends on it.
The good news is that these things are usually temporary. With good treatment you can often regain your previous level of function.
Shoulder fractures are also challenging because they often demand prolonged rehabilitation during and after the bone healing process. Simply waiting for the bone to heal will rarely restore you to your previous level of function without diligent stretching and strengthening of the joint. This demands unexpected patience.
Soft tissues around the shoulder joint
The bones in the shoulder are only part of the picture. Perhaps just as important are the “soft tissues” around the joint- muscle, ligaments, and capsule.
The shoulder, like the elbow is composed of a complex system of muscle and ligament connections that envelope the bones. Treating the tissues surrounding the bones is critical to getting you back to full mobility after any shoulder fracture. Immobilizing the shoulder for too long produces scar that can permanently alter the function of the entire joint.
Most fractures around the shoulder require a delicate balance between stability and movement. This is also a hard concept for patients to grasp: the natural tendency for anyone who has sustained trauma to the shoulder is to protect the injury and “not move” it. It is my job to help you not only stabilize your fracture, but to coach you through your natural reluctance to move.
The secret to treating fractures around the shoulder is to respect the delicate balance between stability and motion.
There really is no one simple technique that works in all cases to achieve this end. But the principle holds true for all shoulder fractures.
Recovering from a shoulder fracture is often challenging. Full recovery from often takes longer than just the time it takes for the bone to heal.
If you have sustained a shoulder fracture and are looking for professional guidance to help you through the entire recovery process please contact us for a consultation.
Dr. DiPaola treats the full spectrum of shoulder fractures with modern operative and non-operative techniques. His approach is one that respects the unique nature of the shoulder joint from time of injury to full rehabilitation and he is versed in dealing with potential complications that may arise in the setting of trauma and recovery.