Proximal Humerus Fracture

The humerus is the long bone in your upper arm that connects to the shoulder joint. The upper end of this bone can break if trauma occurs to the shoulder. The bone can be broken in a few or several pieces, which can displace. Many of these fractures can be treated nonoperatively with a sling for a few weeks and physical therapy. When fractures are markedly displaced, surgery may be recommended to help optimize the function recovered after the injury.

  • Symptoms

  • Treatment


  • Upper arm/shoulder pain
  • Bruising and swelling of the arm or shoulder
  • Visible abnormal contour of upper arm
  • Decreased range of motion and strength

Frequently Asked


How do I know if I have a proximal humerus fracture?

Usually this is diagnosed by x-rays obtained at an emergency room or urgent care. When being evaluated in clinic, x-rays are often repeated to make sure the fracture has not moved from the initial radiographs, which can frequently occur. If the fracture is in multiple pieces, a CT scan may be ordered to evaluate the fracture in more detail and for preoperative planning.

How do I know if I need surgery or can just manage with conservative treatment?

The location of the fracture, the number of broken pieces, and the amount of shifting of the fracture fragments from the anatomic position are important factors that are considered when determining the best treatment plan. Additionally, the patient’s age, activity level, and functional demands are also considered.

What are the risks associated with not treating my proximal humerus fracture?

The most common risks are stiffness, persistent pain, weakness and delay to more use of the arm. Additionally, with nonoperative treatment the bone can shift, leading to abnormal alignment of the bone called a malunion.