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Proximal humeral fractures

Patient information A-Z

What is a proximal humeral fracture?

You have sustained a fracture at the top of your humerus (shoulder).

The humerus is the bone at the top of the arm which fits into the socket of the shoulder to form the shoulder joint. The neck of the humerus is at the top of the bone. Injuries to this bone are commonly caused by falling.

Patient information

Swelling and bruising at the fracture site is normal. This swelling will move towards your elbow over the first two weeks.

Simple, over the counter pain killers will help to reduce swelling and pain.

You may find sleeping upright in a chair or with extra pillows for the first few weeks more comfortable.

You should:

  • Keep your elbow, wrist and fingers moving to prevent stiffness.
  • Use your hand to feed yourself and wash your face as the pain allows.
  • Use your collar and cuff to hold your arm in a comfortable position.

You should not:

  • Put pillows under your elbow.
  • Drive whilst wearing the sling.
  • Lift anything heavier than a cup of tea for six weeks.
  • Miss your appointment with the shoulder specialist.

At your appointment your shoulder may be x-rayed again in order to check the position of the fracture.

The shoulder specialist will then discuss further options for managing your injury at this appointment. Fortunately, most proximal humeral fractures heal well naturally and do not require surgery.

All proximal humeral fractures take several months to recover with regards to pain and range of movement and will keep improving over a period of four years.

You will be able to discuss which is the best treatment for you in the fracture clinic and then will receive physiotherapy in the community after whichever treatment method is decided.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151