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Physical Therapy after Proximal Humeral Fracture

A proximal humeral fracture may occur if you suffer a fall onto your shoulder or outstretched arm. The injury may limit your ability to use your arm normally during work and recreational activities.

After all the commotion of your trauma and injury, your life is settling back down, and you find yourself sitting at home with a broken arm. The normal healing time for a bone fracture is approximately 6-8 weeks from the time of injury, so what are you going to do with your arm until then?

Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, you may have needed surgical fixation, or perhaps you were able to forego surgery for a conservative recovery. Regardless, full functional recovery of your shoulder will likely include the professional help of a physical therapist.

Initially following the injury you might experience:

  • Pain surrounding fracture site/shoulder

  • Swelling in upper arm

  • Tingling/numbness in arm

  • Loss of shoulder range of motion (the amount your arm can move around in space)

  • Loss of shoulder/elbow strength

  • Difficulty with functional use of arm

At first, your doctor may provide you with a shoulder sling to wear to protect the fracture as it begins to heal. Your pain will decrease steadily as the bone heals, but this will often mislead you into thinking you are ready for your typical daily activity before you are, because your range of motion and strength will still be limited. This is where guidance from a qualified physical therapist can help.

The primary goal following a fracture of the upper arm is to safely get you back to your normal function as quickly as possible. In order to achieve that goal, recovery of your shoulder range of motion and strength is key. Your physical therapist will perform a thorough assessment of your shoulder and arm, and based on where you are in the healing process, will provide you with various stretching and strengthening exercises for your shoulder. You will work together with your PT to establish an appropriate home exercise program that you can safely complete outside of the clinic as well to further your progress.

In addition to stretches and strengthening exercises, your physical therapist may utilize manual techniques to gently move your shoulder joint and surrounding muscles to improve your mobility. Generally a combination of these techniques provides the most optimal and effective rehabilitation.

A proximal humerus fracture can really disrupt your daily life, but with the help of a physical therapist, you can return to your normal activities without limitation. If you have suffered a fracture, give us a call at (518) 439-5006. Our PTs can help you get back to your previous level of function.

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