A humerus fracture is a break in the upper arm bone. This may be anywhere in the bone, from the neck of the humerus near the shoulder, to the distal end at the elbow. A form of fracture close to the elbow is known as a supracondylar fracture.
Humerus fracture symptoms
Symptoms of a humerus fracture include instant pain in the arm at the time of injury. The athlete will have difficulty moving the arm either bending the elbow or raising the arm upwards. There may be deformity of the arm if the bone is displaced. Bruising and swelling are common. In compound fractures the bone pierces the skin.
Humerus fracture explained
A fracture is the same thing as a break. The two terms are completely interchangeable. A fracture can be either an acute fracture which occurs due to a direct impact or force, or a stress fracture which gradually develops over time. Stress fractures of the humerus are rare as it is not a weight bearing bone. They are more common in the bones of the legs and feet.
A rare form of fracture which is most commonly seen in throwing athletes (e.g. Javelin or baseball etc) involves a spiral fracture to the mid shaft of the bone, just below the attachment of the deltoid muscle.
A fracture to the humerus will most often occur as a result of a fall, often onto an outstretched arm. Car accidents may also cause a humerus fracture.
Treatment of humerus fractures
Seek medical attention immediately if a fracture is supected. An X-ray will be ordered to confirm the fracture and assess the presence or amount of displacement. The arm will usually be placed in a temporary cast or splint whilst swelling goes down. A full cast is then fitted 2-3 days later and stays in place for 4-8 weeks.
If the two ends of the bone are displaced, or the bone is broken into more than 2 parts, surgery may be required. This will be used to realign the bone and fix the 2 (or more) parts using pins or wires, whilst the bone heals.