How long does a fractured shoulder take to heal?

Injury to the shoulder can result in a shoulder fracture of either the humerus (the ball part of the joint), the clavicle or collar bone or the shoulder blade (scapula) and recovery can vary dramatically depending on the location and extent of the injury and whether it requires surgical treatment.

How do I know if I’ve fractured my shoulder?

Types and locations of shoulder fracture often vary by age. If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, swelling, bruising, a lump at the site of the fracture and an inability to move the arm or raise it above the head.

  1. Clavicle Fracture: the most common shoulder fracture, particularly in children, is a clavicle fracture. The clavicle is the long, thin bone that extends from the base of the neck out to the shoulder and it can occur at any age. It is usually the result of fall or contact sports.
  2. Scapula Fracture: fracture of the shoulder blade or scapula is most rare and can be seen after severe trauma such as a car accident.
  3. Humerus Fracture: the humerus is the long bone that runs from the shoulder down to the elbow. A proximal humerus fracture occurs at the top of the bone, either at or just below the humeral head, or ball part of the joint. Fracture of the humerus can happen at any age but is more prevalent in the older population, often presenting as a crack in the bone resulting from wear and tear.

A shoulder fracture is often described as displaced or non-displaced. The majority of this injuries are non-displaced – almost 80% – which means the broken bone fragments remain in their correct anatomical position and typically heal well without surgery. The arm is kept immobilised in a sling while the shoulder fragments heal, which typically takes six weeks depending on the extent of the injury. A severe fracture can take up to three months to fully heal.

However, the remaining 20% of shoulder fractures are categorised as displaced. The bone fragments are separated and require surgery to restore normal anatomy. A high risk of developing arthritis in the future is another reason why surgery might be recommended. Within a week or so of surgery, you will be advised to start your physical rehabilitation programme to recover which again can take between six weeks and three months depending on how severe the initial fracture was.

It is important to note that a fractured shoulder is often accompanied by injury to the tendons or ligaments of the shoulder and if you are not recovering how you expect, there may be another shoulder injury that is impeding your progress.