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Broken Shoulder Blade

Broken Shoulder Blade Overview

The scapula or shoulder blade is a bony structure found on the upper back that connects the upper arm to the chest wall (thorax). It also forms the socket part of the shoulder joint connecting the upper arm (humerus) to the socket (glenoid). The acromion and coracoid processes are bony bumps found on the upper part of the scapula, and they function to connect the scapula to the collarbone. The scapula is surrounded by thick layers of muscle that are responsible for the smooth movement of the shoulder joint.
 

  • The shoulder blade (scapula) is rarely broken (broken bones are also called fractures). Of all bone breaks, shoulder blade breaks occur less than 1% of the time.
  • Scapular fractures occur more often in young men aged 25-45 years because of the activities and trauma they encounter. These occur with athletic activities, motor vehicle accidents, and other forms of blunt trauma.
  • Broken shoulder blades are often caused by heavy forces that might also include severe injuries to the chest, lungs, and internal organs.
  • Fractures (breaks) have been reported at many areas along the scapula.

Broken Shoulder Blade Causes

Scapular fractures are caused by direct trauma involving a large amount of force or violence. Associated injuries to chest wall, lungs, and shoulder occur in up to 80% of people with broken shoulder blades. Common causes of broken shoulder blades include the following:
 

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls with direct trauma to the shoulder
  • Falls onto an outstretched arm
  • Direct trauma such as from a baseball bat or hammer

Broken Shoulder Blade Symptoms

Pain, swelling, and bruising may occur over the shoulder blade in the upper back or on the top of the shoulder overlying the coracoid and acromion processes.
 

  • You will hold the injured arm close to the body.
  • Movement of the arm will increase the pain.
  • You will be unable to lift the arm.
  • You may have pain with each deep breath due to movement of the chest wall with each breath. This movement may cause movement of the shoulder blade causing pain.
  • Your shoulder may appear flattened or deformed.

When to Seek Medical Care

Call your doctor if you notice these conditions:
 

  • Pain with movement of the affected shoulder
  • Swelling of the shoulder
  • Bruising around the shoulder
  • If shoulder pain fails to improve within 3-5 days

Significant trauma to the shoulder, chest wall, back, or neck can cause severe injuries and should be evaluated in a hospital's emergency department.

  • If you experience the following, call 911 for an ambulance immediately:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Decreased sensation in the affected arm
    • Abdominal pain
  • Go to the emergency department for evaluation if you experience the following:
    • Severe pain or deformity of the shoulder
    • Inability to move the shoulder or arm
    • Weakness, numbness, or persistent tingling in the injured arm

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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