Say you have fractured your humerus, the bone in the upper arm that attaches the limb to the shoulder, but your physician does not think that surgical intervention is the best course of action. This decision may depend upon the part of the humerus involved. You might have a distal fracture, occurring near the elbow joint and most common in young children; a proximal fracture, occurring near the shoulder joint; or a midshaft fracture, involving the middle portion of the bone but not affecting the shoulder or elbow joint.
Proximal and distal fractures are more likely to be treated with surgery. However, humerus fractures can be challenging to fix surgically, and because the humerus bone is not very dense, surgeons often use plates, screws or other fixation devices to stabilize the bone while it heals. Furthermore, this procedure is rather invasive and carries a unique set of risks and potential complications.
The good news is that around 85% of proximal humerus fractures and most midshaft fractures can be treated nonsurgically. The usual protocol involves wearing a sling or brace for approximately six weeks and beginning a rehabilitation regimen with us to regain full range of motion in your injured arm, without overly stressing your shoulder.
Gentle “pendulum” exercises can begin as early as five to ten days after the injury. We will then slowly increase the intensity and range of exercises to restore the flexibility and function of your shoulder and elbow joints. To minimize weakness and muscle loss in your arm, a gentle, progressive approach to lifting will be employed, but your participation in this activity will be restricted.
Then, once it is safe to begin strength training, we can help you do this in the safest and most effective way possible. Resistance-based movements will strengthen the shoulder and major arm muscle groups and promote blood circulation around the injury, which is critical to the healing process. After a while, you may engage in more difficult exercises such as chin-ups, thus incorporating increased loading to further strengthen your muscles. Speak with us about a specific set of exercises personalized for your situation.