broke shoulder
What I learned when I fell and broke my shoulder is that a fall is not just a fall and a fracture is not just a fracture. (Photo source: Adobe Stock Photos)

Who knew that a trip to the airport, one that I had done many times, would end up so badly. Here is what happened in August 2016 when I fell and broke my shoulder.

I was in a hurry to get to the gate for my flight to Tuscon. I was flying to an important meeting where I was going to have the chance to interview a former Surgeon General. The traffic from Marin to SFO was obnoxious, and the TSA line very slow.

I was wearing a heavy backpack. Optimistic about getting some work done on the plane, I had filled it with medical journals and my laptop. I was also pulling my wheelie.

I was walking my usual fast pace when the ball of my left foot struck the floor first—it had been happening a lot lately—and I stumbled. As I tried to get my balance, the backpack slid up towards my head and propelled me forward and down—hard.

I took the brunt of the fall on my right shoulder, but the worst pain was in the middle of my upper arm. I couldn’t use it to help me get up off the floor.

After the fall

A kind passerby got down on the floor next to me and said, with confidence, “I am certified in first aid. Can I help?” Grateful, I directed her to take my left arm and gently pull me into a sitting position.

By now, I am the center of attention, surrounded by airport police, passengers, and a United Airlines representative who told me, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be getting on my flight to Tucson. This was after I asked him to please take me to the gate in a wheelchair. Although he kindly booked me on a later flight, just in case the injury turned out to be something minor, he had already called for an ambulance.

So that was how I ended up as a patient in the ER I used to work in. The emergency physician on duty was one of the few people I still knew at Kaiser South San Francisco.

He sewed up a small laceration in my right eyebrow and arranged for the x-ray. The radiologist, an old friend from my running days, gave me the bad news. I had a displaced fracture of the greater tuberosity of the humerus plus a non-displaced surgical neck fracture.

I was definitely not going to Tucson.

broke my shoulder
My Xrays showed a proximal humerus 2-part fracture. I am definitely not going to Tucson. (Photo source: author)

Why a fall is not just a fall

There are so many interesting and important questions raised by my fall that I want to share with you because I learned that a fall is not just a fall and a broken shoulder is not just a broken shoulder. Bear with me as I take you through some of my thinking.

First of all, there’s the question: Why did I fall? The folks at the airport and the clinicians in the ER asked all the right questions to make sure it wasn’t something that needed an urgent evaluation. Did I have chest pain, dizziness, palpitations? No. Did I trip on something—an uneven tile or an object on the floor? No.

I am very clear about why I fell. I tripped over my own left foot. Once I explained that people lost interest in why I fell and concentrated on the result of my fall—the proximal humeral fractures. But, we will come back to the why later on because it is one of the most important questions that can be asked about a fall.

Managing the pain of my broken shoulder

The next question was, what did I need for pain? I opted for 1 gram of IV acetaminophen. It worked like a charm and left my head clear, so I could sort out the other issues.

One of the most urgent was notifying my client that I would not be at their meeting in Tucson the next morning. I also had to figure out the best way to get home without having my husband schlepp an hour to retrieve me.

An obviously important issue to address: What’s the treatment? After all, you can’t put a shoulder in a cast.

I was given a sling and a follow-up appointment in Orthopedics for a week hence. I opted for NSAIDs for pain because I don’t like the nausea and foggy head that accompany opioids. It turns out that was all I needed.

Getting discharged from the ER was smooth and easy

The discharge from the ER was amazing. My friend, the ER doc, gave me a white and blue pocket folder filled with all the information I would need until I could see the bone doc. In it were several sheets of paper that described upper extremity fractures. It also outlined the home care and follow-up instructions and explained when to seek urgent medical advice.

I also found instructions on how to take the pain medication together with a note telling me that I could pick up my prescription at any pharmacy. It was already entered into the system-wide EHR. (Eat your hearts out, all you people getting care outside of an integrated delivery system.)

I tucked the paper copies of my X-rays in the folder and paid my $5 (no kidding) copay. And then I said my thank yous to the staff who had treated me so kindly and professionally.

I took a Lyft home, whining to the driver about how I was missing a great meeting in Tucson. Even more important, I complained, I was going to miss the upcoming family trip rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon that I had been looking forward to for months.

Follow-up for my broken shoulder

broken shoulder
My bruised arm looked like something from another world. Who knew a trip and fall could end up looking like this?

I got plugged into Kaiser’s orthopedic department and had regular x-rays to ensure healing was going ok. Of course, I spent hours on PubMed and other sites on the internet trying to determine what was the best treatment for my particular fractures.

My fellow internists won’t be surprised to hear that the Orthopedic literature is a mess. Most of the papers I read insisted surgery was the treatment of choice, but I was being treated conservatively with a sling and physical therapy (PT).

So, I made an appointment with the shoulder specialist at my Kaiser medical center to review the literature—yes, you can do that. He described several studies. One was from the UK that I had already read. The researchers found that outcomes were the same for people treated with surgery and those treated with a sling. 

This was the case even if there was displacement of the greater tuberosity like I had. Further, he pointed out, the top of my humeral head had a good shape. Also, there was plenty of room between it and the acromion, so impingement syndrome was unlikely.

I was lucky. Even before I started PT, my shoulder range of motion started to improve. With PT, I went to 80% of the way to normal shoulder function within 2-3 months. I continued doing my PT exercises at home for about a year and a half. My functional range of motion is now about 95 to 100% normal.

You might also enjoy: Dealing with a Rare Eye Disease in the Midst of COVID

Many questions about my fall and fracture remain

I have only scratched the surface of issues related to falls and fractures in this post. Many questions remain:

  1. The humerus is a big bone. Why did mine break after a simple fall from a standing position? Had my long-standing osteopenia progressed to osteoporosis? If I have osteoporosis, what is the best treatment? And what are its side effects?
  2. Why did I trip? Did I have a foot drop or some other gait abnormality? Or was it just a problem with my shoes, my clumsiness, or my inattention? Equally important, what can I do to prevent falling in the future—a huge source of morbidity for women (and men) “of a certain age.”
  3. How can I get back the full and normal function of my right arm? Believe it or not, I was so good at holding it still by my side that I had to consciously remember to use it once it was freed from the sling.
  4. How do I overcome my newly acquired fear of falling and mental images of falling when I go up and down stairs or walk with my big old black lab? Is this a form of PTSD? What’s the best way to renormalize my disturbed sleep?

It is important to explore all of these aspects of falls and fractures because I think all too often clinicians, friends, and family members,—and even patients—think that a fall is just a fall. But in many cases, as I have learned, a fall may be so much more.

If you would like to add to this list of issues to explore, please pass them along either as a comment on this post or as an email to info@thedoctorweighsin.com.

Learning and supporting each other

I am also hoping to hear more from readers about their experiences with osteoporotic fractures. I am pleased that the comment section of this post has become an important resource for people (mostly women) who have fallen and broken their shoulders.

In addition to telling their fracture stories, women have been offering answers to the following questions:

  • Did anyone ask if you had low bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis)? Were you offered screening for the condition?
  • Were you evaluated for underlying or contributing reasons for the fall (e.g., balance problems, vision problems, safety issues in the home)?
  • Did you experience significant emotional sequelae (e.g., fear of falling, depression, insomnia) after the fall/fracture? Did any of your health professionals ask about or offer help with these symptoms? 

Please join in by leaving your responses in the comment section below. Or, send me an email via info@thedoctorweighsin.com.

Related content:
Do You Know Your Risk of Fragility Fractures?
Why are So Many People Taking Their Chances with Osteoporosis?
Drugs, Falls, and Fractures: Missed Opportunities in Osteoporosis
Early Testing for Osteoporosis Gives Voice to a Silent Disease


Originally published in August 2016, it was updated by the author for republication today.

Patricia Salber MD, MBA (@docweighsin)

Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Doctor Weighs In. Founded in 2005 as a single-author blog, it has evolved into a multiauthored, multi-media health news site with a global audience. She has been honored by LinkedIn as one of ten Top Voices in Healthcare in both 2017 and 2018.

Dr. Salber attended the University of California San Francisco for medical school, internal medicine residency, and endocrine fellowship. She also completed a Pew Fellowship in Health Policy at the affiliated Institute for Health Policy Studies. She earned an MBA with a health focus at the University of California Irvine.

She joined Kaiser Permanente (KP)where she practiced emergency medicine as a board-certified internist and emergency physician before moving into administration. She served as the first Physician Director for National Accounts at the Permanente Federation. She also served as the lead on a dedicated Kaiser Permanente-General Motors team to help GM with its managed care strategy. After leaving KP, she worked as a physician executive including serving as EVP and Chief Medical Officer at Universal American.

She has served as a consultant or advisor to a wide variety of organizations including digital start-ups such as CliniOps, My Safety Nest, Doctor Base. She currently consults with Duty First Consulting as well as Faegre, Drinker, Biddle and Reath, LLP.

Pat serves on the Board of Trustees of MedShare, a global humanitarian organization. She is also Chair of MedShare's Western Regional Council.

201 COMMENTS

  1. Hello. I live in Sydney and am nine weeks post fall and eight after surgery. I had a four way proximal fracture (not aligned) with an aligned fracture of the humerus head. I had pins, a plate, bone graft and bone filler. I thought I had a high pain threshold but this has been a nightmare. It’s getting slowly slowly easier but I’m still waking often hourly at night. I had to come off paracetamol and ibuprofen two weeks ago because of fatigue. Sure enough liver enzymes are slightly raised. Once I stopped fatigue improved a bit but my energy still crashes easily. Slightly vit d deficient on recent blood test. Now I’m starting to struggle mentally with two months of this and sleep deprivation. When I wake its as if someone has dipped my arm in hot wax. I get a lot of pain in my inner elbow but ultrasound showed nothing. However they couldn’t validate tendons due to lack of movement. I’m moving a bit better. But am sure physio to the side makes the pain worse, delayed effect..I too have a fear of falling even though there were a few reasons why I fell. Fatigue but also a branch got caught on my foot and wedged against the back of a stone step on a bush walk. It’s been a horrid two months. I just want to feel I’m healing but I feel pain wise, it’s plateaued.

  2. I am 5 1/2 weeks post fall with a dislocated shoulder and non displaced fracture. I am going to physical therapy and the therapist says I am doing well. I have a problem with pain waking me up during the night. Should I be worried about the pain at night. It gets better during the day.

  3. I’m not exactly the demographic you’re targeting, but about 2 months ago I was in a motorcycle – SUV accident. A driver failed to yield right of way and turned left into me – almost T-boning me, but at perhaps 75 degrees, not 90. I’m male, 53. I was thrown from my bike and landed on my left side. I’m not sure which part hit the pavement first, but I suffered a broken foot from vehicle impact, a broken hip, and a compound fracture to the proximal humerus. The last injury was treated by placing a plate and 8 fasteners. When the accident happened, I could feel my hand and move my fingers, but it hurt like hell to move my arm. After surgery, when I was just coming around, I awoke to several OR personnel wrestling me to put my shoulder back into socket. Apparently it popped out twice. Since then, I have been able to extend my range of motion, but try as I might I am not able to lift the humerus. I can lift the forearm from the elbow. I can perform some shoulder movement, bit it hurts in the center of the outside of my left humerus whenever I make these movements. I’m being sent for an MRI after explaining this to the orthopedist. He is floating two possibilities: 1. a rotator cuff issue that was missed when he was fixing the arm, or 2. a brachial plexus injury. I’m worried about the 2nd possibility as it may be permanent and I’d love to return to my activity of riding motorcycles (I am safe and wear a helmet). My OT doesn’t think it is a serious injury as I have function of the hand and lower limb still. The doctor says it is really early and I’m not behind the curve in rehabilitation. Of course all of this possibility gives me a little downer, as I like to stay active. Even simple activities like rolling over in bed just to snuggle next to my wife come with pain….Is there hope for normality again? Are there measures for mild brachial plexus injuries?

    • I can’t speak to the brachial plexus injuries, but I can tell you that in my experience and in the experience of many writing comments here, you will improve with time.It may take longer than you like so be patient with yourself as you continue to follow the instructions of your OT including any home program recommended to you. I did my range of motion exercises for well over a year. I have 100% function even though my ROM is still a bit limited. Good luck.

      • I fell while jogging a little over 5 weeks ago. I landed with my left (dominate )arm straight out in front of me. Luckily I was with friends. They helped me to a sitting position. One of my friends went to get her car and drove me to urgent care. You could clearly see that my shoulder was dislocated. At urgent care, the NP ordered X-rays of my left forearm. I asked the tech about X-ray for the shoulder. She said it wasn’t ordered. Back to the exam room to wait for results. The np came in and said nothing was broken. They were going to give me a sling and send me home. I asked about X-ray for the shoulder. NP says she saw no need to X-ray. My friend said you can see that the left shoulder is misshapen. So the np says if it will give you peace of mind we can X-ray it. All of this happening while I am in the most excruciating pain ever. After shoulder X-ray no comes back in and says you have a dislocated shoulder and we are getting your paperwork ready for the ER. While being driven to ER by family, I read that I also have a fracture of the humerus head. I got to ER at 10am and finally had shoulder popped in around 4pm. I had to ask the nurse to clean off the lacerations on my hand and knee. No one had looked at that. They did a CT and said that the fracture had fit back in place and I didn’t need surgery. This was on a Saturday, saw the orthopedist on Tuesday. I started PT about 2 1/2 weeks after my fall. I am now 5 weeks post fall. I am taking much less pain medicine, but still have pain waking me up at night. No one asked about osteoporosis or osteopenia. I have osteopenia of the hip and spine. I noticed a pothole right before I fell. No one asked about dizziness. The PT told me that I can start jogging again after I pass the 6 week date. I am 68 y.o.
        I usually have a high pain tolerance, but this has been the most painful experience I’ve had

  4. I am one of the April 2020 non-displaced club, though in my late 50’s, rather than the 2 I saw in their 30’s. I posted on here before and thought I would provide an update. I finally had an MRI a couple of weeks ago, after my physical therapist said she thought I probably partially tore my rotator cuff. The physician assistant I had been assigned in Orthopedics said he didn’t think I needed an MRI, however most of our appointments were by phone and I think my range of motion and strength was only tested in Ortho toward the beginning of my injury.

    The x-ray showed that I partially tore several tendons in the rotator cuff area and that my shoulder is still fractured. I have an appointment with a shoulder specialist in a couple of weeks.

    My physical therapist said that it is not uncommon for older/middle aged women who fracture their shoulder to also partially tear their rotator cuff. If you are middle aged or older, are struggling to heal from your broken shoulder, and have not recently had your range of motion and strength assessed, you might want to check with your physical therapist for their view.

  5. I am a 33 year old woman living in Brooklyn. I made a stupid decision to run down subway stairs to catch a train, resulting in a fall down approximately 8 concrete steps…fully aware with my purse in one hand and my phone in the other (yes, certain phone cases are worth the extra $).

    I’ve fallen down stairs before and generally I am admittedly somewhat clumsy but never broken a bone until this incident. A woman who had seen me fall rushed over asking if I needed an ambulance, yet I said no and asked her help in handing me my phone about ten feet away. Yes, this is pretty silly, yet the areas of injury, my attire, and even that phone likely prevented more serious injury.

    So, of course, I do the RICE method and take NSAIDS for a day or so – it was obvious something was wrong beyond my ability to treat at home.

    We currently have an unprecedented situation and I rarely leave the confines of my room. If I do go anywhere, I always wear a mask. It’s not just for me, but a way of respecting others and also….mandatory in basically all establishments. While much news focuses on the difficulties of doctors in this crisis, it’s also eerily disturbing to find so few of a patient.

    I have free health insurance due to unemployment which almost no one accepts. It’s an ordeal I’ve experienced whilst previously unemployed with paid insurance at a low cost for the u.s.

    I go to cityMD, after utilizing their online services to video chat with a doctor who says I need to go and receive x-rays – I am told the good news…you haven’t broken anything, though a tendon etc. May have been torn, so just keep on keepin on. If it still is unimproved in a week, come on down! And your question about pain management? What you’ve been doing.

    Two days later I do actually return, as the doctor also neglected to treat a scrape that was showing those telltale signs of inflammation and possible infection. I was so focused on my foot I did not realize he did nothing to do with my scraped up bloody knee which I even showed him. Cmon man….at least anoint and bandage! Redness, warm to touch vs. uninjured knee, pain moving it…..along with my increasingly painful and more swollen foot/ankle.

    I request something I had in that state of mind and injury not realized I was given. My discharge paperwork overall write up which is something you always receive at a cityMD. I also request to see my xrays and are told my doctor on duty would be able to do, so I just firmly state I must have my prior paperwork before I see them.

    Per the paperwork I had been given it. I’m called in to the room, disturbed by this, and read no apparent fracture and specialist will further review in a few days.

    I tell the “doctor” (not meant in offense) about the knee and increase in pain and swelling and I ask for – god forbid – something stronger for my pain. I am told NO. my medical history is accessible to them, and there isn’t a history of asking for nor receiving something such as Vicodin, etc. I tell them my current prescriptions and usage of them. I’m also asked by who I thought was the PA my Xanax prescription info and my alprazolam info. I tell her that Xanax is a brand name, and I have one prescription. She still writes I have a script for Xanax and generic which is downright silly as I shouldn’t be more knowledgeable as a health care worker on health care.

    I’m told by the “doctor” – who was actually a physicians assistant that I must proceed to an ER for a CT scan, though they could re X-ray it first. I declined as….why go to the ER for said scan when they could X-ray it as well? So, I get my paperwork (showing I never saw a physician) and hobble on over to a conveniently located ER a block away fully equipped with an N95 and admittedly expecting chaos and basically the likelihood of Covid in a Brooklyn ER.

    Oddly, it was very quiet and never containing over 5 individuals (family included) in the waiting room. Many staff were not covering their noses with mandatory masks, and I was and still am worried of this. Particularly an ER primary physician who – at a desk with zero barrier whatsoever- didn’t even have one on. I told him he should be wearing one, knew they had my results as I had overheard, and went back to my room.

    I also heard the nurses and doctors unprofessionally discuss patients, ignore my begging for help, rudely seeing me afraid of a needle if I was in pain did I want it or not? Well…I guess I have no choice? Given shot of a powerful NSAID oft given to professional athletes as I had been denied at the ER a painkiller as well….New York needs to figure this out and quit assuming we all are drug seekers.

    Finally, I’m given crutches and practice with nurse. After, the primary physician tells me I’m doing it wrong. Heck, I don’t know what’s what in the crutches game but okay!

    Enter the disturbing verbiage of this physician. I am “suspicious” of a fracture. He not once after several attempts told me what does suspicious mean? A dark spot a light spot? What? Nothing but I must go to podiatry wing during his hand written hours of operation following business day. They actually close at 4P EST, not 5P.

    I had to tell this individual to NOT WRITE ME A SCRIPT FOR IBUPROFEN- I HAVE IT. I also later read my discharge papers, and the findings are not suspicious and factually stated. I broke a bone and have some bony fragments. I call my mother in another state to interpret the findings in layman’s speak as she is in a field of medicine.

    I couldn’t afford to uber there until my unemployment came tuesday, when I discovered mister Friday has zero clue about the LAW but also none of podiatrists hours of operation. However, they thankfully see me.

    I am then told I will need a cast for three months and my bone density needs improvement. I buy calcium plus vitamin d as is needed for absorption. I am an unemployed single woman making ends meet and confronted with the harsh reality that I’ve had a broken bone requiring 3 months of a cast when it is near impossible to find non-manual labor work and need to figure out what the heck I’m going to do.

    While I cry again as he puts a cast on me which is too large to accommodate 90% of my leg wear (what am I going to do when I can’t budget new baggy pants….don’t want to offend anyone nor humiliate myself) – I’m told I also should not put weight on it…..my original nurse approval of crutch usage was deemed proper. Doctor was VERY wrong per specialist.

    I am told I am being prescribed something for the pain, though of course, welcome to NSAID only, as well as prescriptions for vitamin D, aspirin, other things I ALREADY HAVE. To boot, the podiatrist assistant (he was asking someone a question re: how to prescribe Toradol whilst prescribing ibuprofen). And….the guy wrote them incorrectly resulting in a very hungry, in pain, dehydrated and jaded woman having to get it resolved wondering why in the world am I receiving scripts for things I don’t need nor told prescribed? Why is my severe penicillin allergy I ALWAYS MENTION not listed? Allergies: None.

    Whoa. Not true, and if you ever give me a strain of it I might die. I stated my reaction to it which caused my eyes to completely swell shut and break out in hives. I have an allergy, and it’s serious.

    I’m utterly sick of all the stories of how stressful life is for ER doctors. If I wasn’t afraid of needles and queasy about blood I’d love to do the good one is able to in such a position, but I acknowledge I am not fit for it. When you pursue such a career, you must know the possibilities in your line of duty. I work in customer support (pre unemployment) and I’ve never met a soul who dreamt of that job, but I wound up doing it and I enjoyed it. I also know that territory includes extremely rude problematic frustrated individuals and maintaining professionalism.

    Why the heck wasn’t I told that I DEFINITELY broke something? Treated like crap? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t behave like that, and after some calls am glad common ER security footage is kept for 30 days, as I am reporting the physician for endangering myself and others. I unfortunately followed the rules on that day and didn’t even hobble with phone in hand like much of my generation.

    I also have a tolerable amount of pain so….l will not ask for help from those able to provide between snacks and openly talking s-word about patients.

    • I am so sorry this happened to you. I was an Emergency Physician in my prior life. On behalf of the profession, let me apologize to you.

      And, with regard to the pain med issue. First, doctors were told that we were underprescribing narcotic medications. I once had to take a course before I could renew my license. It essentially taught me that these drugs were not as dangerous as we used to think. But of course, the opioid crisis has proved that wrong. Now, I am hearing many stories, like yours, where people are made to feel like they are “drug-seekers,” just because they have pain.

      That being said, I refused narcotics in the ER after I broke my shoulder. I asked for IV acetaminophen instead (aka Tylenol). It worked like a charm. I used NSAIDS for a few days after the fracture and then found pain relief from immobilization in a sling.

      I wish you a full and speedy recovery.

      Pat

  6. Hi
    I fractured my proximal humerus back in May and posted a comment. I was gutted as everyone is!
    Just wanted to let you know how I am getting on now – 3+ months later. It was very painful at the beginning as everyone knows! To just move my right arm slightly away from my body made me scream and I experienced all the difficulties of washing under my arms too! I re-discovered the delights of talc and had to wash twice a day in the bath/shower. But you can do the pendulum thing by moving your whole body to one side and letting your arm hang and then washing underarm.
    I attended A&E but was given no info initially but also looked up immediately online for advice. I found this https://www.esht.nhs.uk/leaflet/proximal-humerus-fracture/ which was very useful.
    So right away I was doing my own little bit of physio. I attended hospital again very quickly at the clinic and was given another x-ray and then two weeks later was told I could discontinue the collar and cuff and start moving my arm more. This was a relief and also terrifying. Physio commenced about 3 weeks after the accident and I was lucky enough to receive NHS face-to-face physio every two weeks or so until 3 months. I have been diligent with my physio – doing it 3 times a day at home until recently when I now do it twice a day. I think doing yoga before has helped because I am pretty aware of how my posture should be (but isn’t!) and about keeping my shoulders down and back. Pretty soon I could see how much I was compensating with other muscle groups to lift my shoulder, sometimes it felt I was using my whole body to lift one arm…..
    But I wanted to say too that I am now doing OK, I think. The pain and bruising continued for 6 weeks and also my arm ached a lot. The aching has gone mostly and the pain has too. I met my osteopath early on by chance whilst out on a gentle walk and she advised me to take ibuprofen for 6 weeks at least to help with the inflammation (not sure whether this interferes with healing though?) I took maybe 400mg a day after that, and, most importantly, to put ice on after the physio which I still do. She told me it would take me 18 months to get back to normal whatever that is. Of course, this all depressed the hell out of me as did the doctor telling me my shoulder would never be the same again and their aim is to get me back to my normal activities etc. But that has been like a red rag to a bull! I am 64 and thought I was doing OK. I am pretty determined to do my best. I also had the horrendous fear of falling for the first 8 weeks but that is slowly wearing off though I am so much more careful than I used to be.
    So I am still doing my physio and trying to be aware of compensating for my shoulder in the exercises and I am going to go to private physio soon to get as much help and advice as possible in these early stages. I start swimming next week too and I can do downward dog in yoga.
    I just wanted to say to everyone who has just gone and done this to themselves – don’t despair! It is absolutely horrendous at the beginning but it does get better! I got so depressed thinking this was it, I am finished but I am fighting back! Shoulders are notoriously difficult and need extra care. I talk to mine and apologise and say we will get better! I want to learn how to kayak and go out on the sea……
    Just a word of warning. I fell with arms outstretched. My wrist was stiff and sore but that was camoflaged by the pain in my shoulder. So, eventually when my shoulder pain had subsided my physio noticed how I was still sore and stiff in my wrist. She referred me for an x-ray which didn’t show a scaphoid (common) fracture but weeks later with no improvement I had to return to the shoulder consultant who proposed an MRI (which I still haven’t had). BUT my wrist is now much better so it took at least 3 months for the damage there to settle. Scaphoid fractures get missed a lot apparently and I will go for the MRI eventually to see if there was any damage. So do the hand physio too and keep an eye on your hand if you fell with arms outstretched.
    In the meantime I am following Dr Salber’s advice about doing physio at home. I use a resistance band now, lying down and trying to get my arm over my shoulder behind me. Still got a way to go but I do see improvement every week with the physio and believe that is the key to getting back ROM so thank you Dr Salber!
    I also unbelievably got a phone call a few weeks ago from my GP who discussed a bone scan with me. I just told her no because I wouldn’t like to go on the drugs they give you (I too am a nurse). We discussed diet etc and exercise and I was happy with that. To be honest I fell with such force that I would have been surprised if I hadn’t broken something. So that is why too I am determined to get back with my exercise, yoga and everything.
    I read avidly everything everyone has put on here and found it enormously helpful if a bit scary at times. I really feel for people who don’t have anyone to help them at the beginning because oh boy I really needed it and I think I have been lucky with the NHS and how covid has been. And as for having to go back to work! Well that would have been impossible for me, I just couldn’t believe how painful this injury proved to be – it didn’t look that bad on x-ray. Good luck to everyone and thank you.

    • Thank you for this. I just fractured my shoulder October 4th,
      Same age as you and arm outstretched and I hyper extended it. I have an orthopaedic appointment Oct 16 ( yes that is our excellent canadian healthcare😳- having to wait 12 days…)
      Thank you for your tips and reassurance in improvement and normal function.

  7. I slipped on an incline while hiking, put my arm forward to steady myself, and heard a loud crack. My shoulder dislocated, the ball broke off the humerus, and a small piece of the socket also fractured. My initial surgery repaired the ball/bone with a “bird cage” titanium mesh (I apologize for not knowing the exact terminology), along with a plate, pins, etc. I had a second surgery 6 weeks later after it re-dislocated, repairing the socket again and tightening everything up. Initially I made a lot of progress in PT, felt little pain, and had good movement, but then it regressed. My therapist basically said I was getting worse and he couldn’t help me any more, and encouraged me to be more assertive with my surgeon. After a year, the regrowth was not successful, and the ball was flattening out and no longer fitting in the socket, so I had a reverse shoulder replacement 2 weeks ago (at age 52).

    No one talked to me about bone density. I specifically asked about the possibility, and was told it was probably not a problem (despite strong history of osteoporosis in my family, AND I had shattered my elbow 2 years before in a bike fall). I requested a bone density test and was diagnosed with osteopenia.

    My emotions have mostly been manageable, although I have had a few quiet pity parties for myself. I did experience unexpected fear when I took a non-strenuous walk through the woods on very flat terrain — I heard the crunch of gravel under my feet and it triggered a small panic. As I recover for the third time, I divide my timeline as before/after the break, as my quality of life has noticeably decreased and the chronic pain is disruptive to my mood and my ability to participate in activities and work (teaching). No one on my medical team has asked about this or offered any help.

  8. This post and comments section has been super enlightening and helpful! I (32 yr old woman) came off my bike at the end of April this year, landed hard on my left shoulder. X-rays confirmed an un-displaced greater tuberosity fracture. I’d cracked the bone in a couple of places, right where the rotator muscles attach. Because of the location of the breaks I was told to be super careful to avoid any displacement, otherwise surgery would be needed. Had some follow-up x-rays a week later which showed that nothing had moved, so was allowed to continue healing up in the sling.

    Fast-forward to this point, where I’m nearing the 4-month anniversary of my accident. What I’ll say is it’s been a constant process of readjusting my expectations, as the healing process has been slower than I expected. Honestly, I thought I’d be nearly back to normal by now! I was given a pamphlet of standard physio exercises at the outset, and then only spoke to an NHS physiotherapist (over the phone, due to Covid) at around week 8. I was pretty frustrated at that point, so I started having private regular in-person physio sessions from week 10, which has been a HUGE help. The range of impacts from the injury seem to be so varied (based on this comment thread alone), and it’s made such a difference having somebody working with me specifically and assessing my movements and personal progress – from a physical point for sure, but also from a peace of mind point of view!

    Right now my ROM is still significantly limited. I can only raise my arm just above shoulder level, and there’s a bit of compensation going on so the movement isn’t completely normal. But I don’t have too much pain or trouble sleeping, and I can see tiny baby steps of improvement week to week. I’ve been told healing is slow because of the location of the breaks, and how they disrupted the rotator cuff muscles. Also my muscles atrophied quite badly while immobilized, so I have a good deal of weakness. It is hard to constantly bat off the negative thoughts about the slow progress, and worries that maybe I won’t get full ROM back. I’m trying to stay positive and focus on those silver linings. I wanted to share this for any of you out there in a similar position (still battling to get back to normal, months down the line, after what seemed like quite a minor fracture!) I really think the mental challenges which come with injuries like this are as significant as the physical aspects.

    • Thank you for your comment. I know the slow progress can be discouraging and think it would be helpful if our doctors laid out the expected time course for a return to normal. That being said, PT is the key to getting back your range of motion and strength….keep it up. I did my ROM exercises for more than a year and still to strength training 3-4 times/week. Keep on working at it. Pat

    • You’re doing well! I had the same injury with some displacement following slipping on the ice on 18th December. Struggled pain wise and I was given no movement advice in ED just told to wear the sling. I’m a nurse so googled and found a fabulous exercise sheet for the injury from a different NHS trust which I did from day 2 so when I finally got physio 8 weeks post injury she was thrilled with my movement but pain was still a problem. Covid then hit and I had to return to work and physio stopped. My movement started to go backwards and the pain increased and I really became quite distressed about my limited movement having worked so hard to help myself. Fortunately for me I work in a fabulous team and one of our physios became my knight in shining armour! My pain is still a big problem as I also have supraspinatus calcification, but my movement has dramatically improved which I am so relieved about. It seems hopeless at times but all of a sudden you will notice you’re able to do more things if you carry on with the physio, but I’ve been warned it will take 12 months to achieve the best ROM, but I am definitely more optimistic now and hopefully you will find this too! Good luck!

    • This is SO helpful! I’m an almost identical case – 35 yr old woman, fell mountain biking, hit my left shoulder, and have a non-displaced greater tuberosity fracture. I didn’t realize it was broken at first (I thought I had torn my rotator cuff) and didn’t go for an x-ray until 2 weeks after the fall. I started wearing a sling at 2.5 weeks and I’m now at 5 weeks. Luckily it’s healing as it should for week 5 despite not wearing a sling the first 2.5 weeks. I’m starting physiotherapy next week (week 6). I’m really surprised by how much it still hurts, and I’m finding most of the pain isn’t actually where the break is. It’s around the middle of my upper arm and the front of my shoulder. It seems to be the strain/atrophy of my muscles that are causing me pain vs the actual break. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s really encouraging to find the exact same case to mine!

  9. This has been one of the best informative articles I’ve read since I catapulted myself into my walk-in shower 3 weeks ago, resulting in the same injury. Since I do have osteoporosis, my ortho doctor said surgery is inadvisable and offered the same prognosis as yours. I’m still looking for a reasonable timeline and rehab exercise schedule so I can regain most of the movement in my shoulder. Thank you for your honesty and insight on this injury. Will you be offering a follow up article?

    • I did write a few follow-up stories on osteoporosis.I will definitely update them as much is happening in the field.

      Here is something for you to look forward to: My shoulder range of motion if almost normal.I am not limited in any way. I credit a home PT program that I followed for more than a year – mainly moving my arms in many ways that kept the shoulder limber. For example, I would lay on the floor with my arms at my side holding a long roll of wrapping paper. I would slowly lift my arms over my head and try to touch the ground above my head.

  10. So interesting to read this. I’m a 39 y.o. male with spiral displaced fracture of the humeral neck, non dominant arm. I came off my bicycle on a corner. Tried to roll but bounced off the ground, arm bounced into my torso bruising 2 ribs also. After ER had Orthopaedics a week later. Consultant was very concerned and reckoned surgery was likely, requested an emergency CT scan. After scan I was offered two routes – surgery for plating, with risks of course and good movement but further surgery to remove the hardware later, or natural healing and 75-85% ROM and painfree – this is what I chose. Ortho follow up a few weeks later. More xrays, new Consultant who seemed happier. Recommended getting out of my collar and cuff as much as I can and an additional exercise to do to improve ROM. Pain has changed over the weeks from excruciating to muscle/ligament feelings to mild muscle and break site pain, but reducing painkillers now. Only 6 weeks in just now so a long way to go yet. Just hoping the fracture is stable and we get a bone union. Next xray in 10 weeks.

  11. I fell due to flip flops and rain. I’m 66 and it’s been 9 weeks and I go to PT 3 times a week. I think over worked myself at home and now my muscles in my arm are on fire. When I do my stretches lifting my arms my arm hurts from my shoulder to my hand. I broke the ball portion of my humerus and the doc says it has healed and I have no weight restrictions. Why are my muscles so painful and what can I do?

  12. Thank you so much for this post. I’m a 50 year old active physician and three weeks ago I tripped, fell and suffered a spiral fracture of my right proximal humerus. This happened 5 weeks after fracturing my 5th left metacarpal playing pickleball in my driveway. Luckily neither injury required aurgery and my hand was healed enough to stop wearing the stupid splint. My course has paralleled many. I’m out of work (no way to safely or effectively see patients with limited mobility). I’m anxious to start PT tomorrow. I’m frustrated with the medical system in general. My midnight trip to the ER was uneventful and while my ortho is decent with a good reputation (I live in a small community and I’m a Family Doc so I refer to all of our local specialists regularly) the office is dreadful. Horribly repetitive paperwork (super fun to fill out with a not fully healed broken left hand and broken right humerus and no one allowed in the office with be because if COVID.) I didn’t mind doing it once, but filling out the exact same form 8 days later was a bit ridiculous. Also zero patient education. I had to press the doc for answers regarding a possible time line and what to expect. I had to figure out on my own that sleeping in a recliner was a must and straightening my arm a few times per day was a good thing. All in all I’m recovering but very glad to have found more stories like mine!

  13. Thank you for posting your experience and this comments section. It has been helpful to me to read about other people’s experiences. My injuries started happening about 3 months ago; 5 months after I lost my job at the age of 58. I was struggling with the manner and consequences of my job loss, so was under a lot of stress. I had also recently been told by 2 professionals that an incident with a male work colleague amounted to sexual assault and was trying to figure out what, if anything, to do about it. I didn’t want to get him in trouble, though was very distressed about it.

    Covid had hit and exercise required social distancing. On a morning jog in mid-April 2020, I moved onto a patch of dirt to avoid a group of people. I tripped and landed with my left arm outstretched. I’m not even sure I tried to break my fall. I felt a pain in my shoulder, but I think I was also a bit shocked. Someone helped me up who said he wasn’t afraid to touch me. I told him to just use my right hand. I remember people saying it was a good thing I didn’t break anything, then quickly leaving. I ran into a friend who saw me carrying my left arm. I told him what happened, then managed to drive home. I had to use my right hand to move my turn signal. All I wanted to do was sleep. A phone call from my friend’s wife, who is a nurse, woke me up. She said I needed I needed to have my shoulder looked at, so I let her drive me to a clinic.

    The person I saw at the clinic told me the x-ray did not show a fracture and that I might have torn a tendon. He reluctantly gave me a sling and told me to avoid using it because immobilization could lead to frozen shoulder. He also gave me some exercises and said to phone if my injury did not improve in a week or if I developed new symptoms. I barely looked at the exercises because I could not imagine doing them as I was in so much pain. My bicep started turning purple a day or so later. I was chastised when I phoned about my new symptom and told to wait a week. The pain kept me awake during the night even with the prescription anti-inflamatory meds and icing. My triceps started showed bruising as well. I tried calling again the next day, but was told an MRI wouldn’t be helpful until the swelling went down.

    About 3 weeks later I started physical therapy. She tested my range of motion and strength and expressed concern that my bicep was still so bruised after 3 weeks. She said that some of the exercises I had previously been given were too advanced for me and that we should just focus on stabilization and range of motion.

    Meanwhile, I missed a step down to my house, broke my right foot and was given a protective shoe and crutches, in spite of telling them that I had an injured shoulder. I am widowed, with no immediate family, and live alone. I was distraught at what I had become. I had previously been a highly respected professional who was physically active and popular. Now I was housebound, socially isolated, and struggled to care for myself and my dog, who did not understand why I could no longer take her for walks. Using the crutches was agony and I wound up dragging my foot around until Kaiser called me back in and gave me a walking cast.

    3 weeks later, the physical therapist added some strengthening exercises, though commented that she could still see bruising. I noticed the pain in my bicep and deltoids was increasing and one of the range of motion exercises was harder to do. 3 weeks later, she said that while I was improving in some areas, my range of motion was decreasing in others. She said she would recommend a referral to the orthopedic team for further assessment. Another x-ray was taken and a non-displaced fracture was finally diagnosed.

    I am still doing the physical therapy exercises, though was told to stop doing the strengthening exercises. I am now having problems with occasional dizzyness/lightheadedness, so am extra concerned about falling again. I really don’t want to get old before my time. I am determined to get back to a level of fitness where I can swim and hopefully even jog again. I’ve ordered a folding exercise bike, which I hope to start using this week.

    • Oh, dear, Pam, that sounds just awful, just every thing at once, physical, work wise, your personal stress. I’m 64. I broke my shoulder last fall, and got pretty good care, thank goodness, but still have some difficulties at times and not being able to go to physiotherapy since March hasn’t helped. But it does get better, step by step. It sounds like you have a solid diagnosis and good PT now. An exercise bike is a great idea – I used one at gym after meniscus surgery a years ago and found that it helped with both motivation (“if I just go sit on it and move a bit, then I’ll want to do more – as opposed to “I have to RUN now!”) and strengthening. Also, the fact that you started out being in such good shape will help you with recovery. I am rooting for you. Keep us updated, I will follow. You’ve got SO much time to get better, and I know you will. Recovery definitely takes longer than the “average” – I always have to remind myself that when you read online “recovery time” they’re probably talking about 30 year olds. But it will come! I did a bit of Qigong during the start of the lockdown, actually, and that helped a lot too, mentally and physically – without being too much of a physical strain.

      • Thank you so much for your kind thoughts. I will try to keep you posted.

        I tried to gently swim just a couple of slow laps in a friend’s small pool a couple of days ago. That was a mistake, as I wound up lying awake with pain and an ice pack on my shoulder during the night. It’s been 2 and a half months since I injured my shoulder, but I guess if I was told to stop the strengthening exercises, I shouldn’t have tried swimming even with a lame, slow breast stroke. I noticed there is still some bruising on my triceps last night.

        I am doing some exercises to try to control the dizzy spells. I wonder if they might have been set off by having to sleep on 1 side for months.

        • Ouch, go easy. Our shoulders and arms are so incredibly weak now that it’s painful both from the muscles working again and if the shoulder is not fully healed. The PT telling you to stop the strengthening exercises was a “hint”! :) Dizzy spells, maybe good to check with doctor – may or may not be related and you don’t want to have another fall, or other semi-related issues. Take care. Pat

  14. I’m crying as I type this. I am 33 with a 4 yo, 2 yo, and 7 month old. I tripped on one of their legos on the tile floor and broke my humerus. Other than child birth I have never felt pain like this, emotionally and physically. I can Not pick up my baby and he just looks at me and cries and I feel so hopeless. My husband has been helping but I’m having the worst anxiety that I won’t be able to hold my baby again until he’s not a baby anymore. The doctor said no surgery and I’m in a sling. I can’t sleep, there is no comfortable position and I toss and turn all night keeping my husband awake too. This is the worst thing to have ever happened to me. I’ve never felt so helpless and sorry for myself.

    • I am so sorry about your fall and fracture. I know you are very discouraged right now, but read through the comments and you will find that the pain will go away and you will get your function back, particularly if you follow your physical therapist’s instructions. And, don’t worry, you will be able to cuddle your baby while he is still a baby.

    • Oh Ashley, try to keep your spirits up, as hard as it is. The pain does get easier, but it does take time. I’m a 54 year old nurse and couldn’t believe how painful my fracture was, but it will get better. Take painkillers regularly and look after yourself…let your husband help. Your baby will still want cuddles once your able again, but try not to do too much too soon once the pain eases. Take care x

    • Dear Ashley, I broke my shoulder last fall, and it was terrible. Also didn’t have surgery, and was very, very thankful for that. I can’t imagine what you’re going through because I didn’t have little kids to take care of. The stories here show a lot of frustration, pain and worry – but also a lot of hope. The first month is the worst in terms of pain. It will take a long time for it to fully go away, but you will be able to hold the baby soon. The better you can take care of it now, for the first four weeks, and follow your doctor and physiotherapist’s advice, the faster you’ll be able to start doing more things. Sleeping is the worst – I went through a lot of Netflix and slept in my own bed with lots of pillows in different positions, and slept half the day. And then you’re tired. Try to go really easy on yourself, don’t demand too much of yourself (as if any mother is able to do that), and don’t worry if your kids get too much video/TV, or anything else that keeps them not needing too much attention. Kids are resilient. And as you know from your own kids, our little ones are “babies” for a good long time and you’ll be able to hold your baby again very soon. I don’t know if this helps – but I hope it does. Some quick tips: lots of icing, even now, I did it for the first 8 weeks. Cetaphil ointment for parts that get rashy, like under the arm – my Mom saved me with that one. Two slings, so one can be washed if it gets sweaty. Baby wipes for easy washing when you just can’t face a shower. Baby wipes also for bathroom business can help – and cleaning hands. (I couldn’t even wash hands for awhile.) Lots of Netflix, if you have to with earphones in the night in bed when you wake up. (I found that I didn’t have pain while watching movies, then pain started when I tried to sleep. Impossible to fight it.) Painkillers all laid out at night for when you need them – and to avoid bad mistakes! Alternating Advil and Tylenol -not forever, but as needed. Don’t be a hero. Love and hugs from someone still in a bit of pain at times – but NOTHING like before. I wish I could be in direct touch with you, I’d be happy to be a support source, if you need it.

    • Honey, don’t take it too hard.
      I broke my humerus, what, 8 weeks ago. And the tuberculum above it.
      Right now I am right as rain, I even forget I broke my arm at all. Even one week ago I still had some pain when doing movements such as those involved in getting dressed.

      Of course you will hold your baby again! Don’t allow the anxious mind to paint all these horrible pictures.

      I am 56 and it seems I had a much easier time than most people here. I’ve been posting the things I’ve used to help me – just on the off chance that they might help somebody else.

      I took vit. C every day. I guess 1 or 2 grams (but never suddenly stop vit. C. Just taper it off, later on.)
      I took vit D3 with K2. Taking D3 without K2 is a bad idea! There are many formulations of D3 with K2 (the latter preferably in the form of MK7.)
      I took about 500 mg of Magnesium every day. Maybe more.
      I took a zinc supplement.

      On top of that, I put Cypress Essential Oil and Pine Needle Essential Oil into a base of virgin coconut oil (I added peppermint oil and lavender and helychrysum, too, although these aren’t specifically for assisting bone growth) and smeared the concoction on my upper arm and shoulder at least 3 times a day. Use a good quality oil, not a cheap, bad one.

      After 1 week the surgeon said my arm looked (on the x ray) “surprisingly good”.
      Two weeks ago I thought I’d stop with the oils. But when I did, I’d get strange pains in my upper arm, not even at the exact spot of the breaks. Going back on the oils stopped those pains.

      As I say, I am doing excellent, now. I was supposed to do physiotherapy but I decided I didn’t need it. I have 100% range of motion back (that did take about 7 weeks.)

      The first days were quite painful, and sleeping was difficult. You want to prop yourself up on pillows, and resign yourself to the fact that sleeping will be hard for a few days. I watched videos. Also I took paracetamol every day for a number of days. That helped.

      You gotto be a Buddhist about this, Ashley – accept what happened to you, accept that your motion will be limited, that you have to take things really slow. And you have to be really, really patient. When you get dressed, for instance. The moment you try to hurry, you’ll drive yourself nuts.

      My mother was on her back for many months (6?) when I was a baby. You’re not. You may not be able to hold him, but you can sit with him, touch him, be present.

      You will be OK, Ashley.

    • Ashley— I’m a 63 year old mom of 3, with 2 1/2 year old twin grandchildren that I normally watch quite frequently.

      I was 3 hours into a weekend getaway on June 13, 2020, had a couple of glasses of wine, and spectacularly tripped over a sofa leg. Pain was instant and unbearable. I went to the hospital via ambulance and spent 2 nights for pain control. It took us 2 days to make the trip home.

      No surgery, sling as well, and I cannot imagine having to take care of 3 littles like you are. I sincerely hope your doctor gives you some effective pain medication, especially for nighttime.

      Now is the time to let everyone help you! Your baby will be okay, and time will help you figure out creative ways to hold him.

      Please know that people care and want to help.. My doctor is very understanding about the pain, and explained that the area near the shoulder has tons of nerve endings which intensify pain.

      This injury hurt more than childbirth, having my lung cut into (open thoracotomy) etc. I will stop feeling sorry for myself and pray for you!

      You’ve got this! Just keep muddling along, and things will get better.

  15. First of all, thanks Pat for your story and secondly thanks for all the comments from others on their experiences. When you are going through something like this you feel very alone and it helps to read about other peoples experiences. There are so many questions about what to expect and what is normal and this article certainly helped me. Even though everyones experience is unique and everyone heals differently you can usually find something in each story that helps or fits what you are going through. I am a 55 year old healthy female. I fell off a segway and landed on a curb fracturing my proximal humerus in 3 places as well as dislocating it in January/20. I did not break my fall at all as it happened very quickly. I was in a collar and cuff sling for 6 weeks. This was seriously the worse pain of my life. At the initial fall and afterwards as well. Initially,I was taking percocet every four hours and I took this until March weaning down the time span. It was also very humbling as I am a very independent person and was very depended on others for everything including personal care at the beginning. It was also my dominant arm so that didn’t help. I started physio for my lower arm and hand at 3 weeks and on my shoulder at 6 weeks going every week. I was lucky to be seen all through covid every week. In the past I have never found that physio really helped me but for this it has been a God send. She told me all along it would take 4-6 months for the initial healing to be well enough to go back to work and I am two weeks off of 6 months now and feel at about 70%. I am scheduled to go back to work at the beginning of August and I feel that I will be ready. She also said it will take up to a year to get 100%. My pain level now sits between 10-20% depending on what I am doing. I have about 60-70% rom depending on what direction and my strength is slowly coming. 2 months ago I would not have believed that I would be where I am now. It has been very slow and tedious but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My best advice would be listen to your body and your PT. Also, don’t try and rush healing. I tried this at the beginning and it didn’t help. Also, for sleeping I slept in a lounge chair for the first 8 weeks and used an airplane pillow for a pillow. This helped immensely. Also, very important to ice at the initial fall if you have severe swelling and bruising. It helps with the pain and inflammation.

  16. Hi Patricia,

    I also suffered a greater tuberosity fracture 2 and a half years ago after a simple fall – I tripped on the kerb and put my arm out to catch my fall. I’ve definitely had a lot of the feelings you mention here; I felt upon reading the literature that greater tuberosity fractures from a simple fall occurred predominantly in much older women (I’m 28) and most incidences in younger women were from more high-impact events. However my concerns about bone density were dismissed when I raised them with my consultant because of my age – frustrating when factors such as oral contraceptives, for example, can effect bone density in younger women.

    I definitely have a much greater fear of falling now, complete with fun ‘walking down a flight of steep, windy stairs and tripping and falling all the way down to the bottom’ dreams, and I had several falls in the year after my fracture (again, dismissed by my GP when I queried if there was an underlying cause). Unfortunately my automatic reaction now when I fall is to snap my arms to my sides instead of trying to catch my fall, which, whilst probably very comedic to watch, resulted in a bit of a bashed up face when I slipped on a wet floor last year…

    As for the actual fracture, I was treated similarly to you – 6 weeks in a ‘collar and cuff’ sling, with follow-up physio. It’s healed well, but I still have niggles – my left arm is noticeably weaker than my left, and I have slight pain at the upper limits of my motion. Occasionally I have problems getting dressed/undressed where my shoulder feels ‘stuck’. I’m much more right-dominant than I used to be. For what was a relatively minor fracture, it certainly has had a big impact and there have been a lot more long-term concerns than I expected.

  17. It is June 14, 2020…..January 2019 I fell in my office at work. It was pouring rain outside and I had on a pair of cowboy boots they was soaking wet, muddy and slick on the floor. I was late and quickly bolted into a corner of the room to turn on a lamp I swirled around to go back to my desk and hooked one boot on the other. I flew over a chair and into a wall hitting head first and coming down with my full weight onto my right shoulder. I knocked myself silly when I hit my head, when I could function I managed to crawl to a phone to call our nurses station. Upon examination the nurse insisted a coworker take me to the ER. X-rays showed a comminuted fracture of the humerus. The Doctor later told me he sees injury like I had in high impact situations, not a fall. They did a scan of my head and found no bleed. They did not give me a referral for a neurologist despite the big lump on my head. Big mistake. My pain level was high, I injured my whole arm, wrist and hand. I turned black and blue on the entire right side of my torso. I had spasms in my chest wall. It was the worst pain I have experienced. Their were nights I sat up and whimpered like a wounded animal. I started Physcial therapy and had to go slow. I was finally diagnosed with a concussion which made healing even more complicated. The worst thing and may be the best is the Dr’s told me due to the severity of the fracture with this type of injury I may not get very good movement back in the shoulder. I put 100% into my physical therapy. I cried, I cussed, I wanted to give up, I had arm and hand therapy on top of the shoulder therapy. It was 8 months before I saw what I had accomplished. I completely blew my Doctors away. I have 95% shoulder recovery. My hand is not 100% but I can live with it. I am 70 years old, very active, still working and in very good health. My message is work as hard as you can and never give up. A shoulder injury is not an easy thing especially if it is your dominate hand. I had to go to talk therapy when it was all over. I missed major events, a dream opportunity in my career, and the concussion was hard emotionally. I did EMDR and it helped address my PTSD from the whole event. I am well and glad it is behind me.

  18. I read your piece on how you broke your shoulder and are now having fear of falling again as well as questioning why you fell etc.
    I broke my right radial head – elbow last May 6th. I have the same feelings you have had and am very worried about it because I am a 57 year old woman and fear this is only going to get worse. I am still not fully healed and now have pain there as well as some loss of movement and nerve damage in my baby and ring finger on my right hand. I got a bicycle about 3 weeks before I fell (I fell at work, btw) and rode it once before the accident.
    Now, the bike has had a tune up (not really necessary, but made me a little more at ease) and I have ridden it once. I feel very nervous and actually lost my balance (just overthinking) and tumbled when I first tried to mount it…I had to talk to myself – saying “you can do this, don’t be afraid etc” during the short ride home from the bike shop. I almost lost my balance once again – also because I saw myself falling again and just lost confidence….this all on a 2km ride home! I want to try again today, but because of the pandemic, there are so many people riding bikes that it makes me nervous as well….
    Should I just get on and go for it, or stay off the bike and just walk for a couple more months till I feel more comfortable? I have issues sleeping as well, because the arm and hand now go numb if I don’t sleep with it absolutely straight….
    I feel like an old lady and am very upset about this.
    Any advice?

    • Hi Barbara,

      I am your age, and I was also afraid to get back on my bicycle. I advise you do NOT get back on it until you feel happy doing so.
      Like you say, you become too self-conscious, and that’s just not safe. Let it go. Then, from one day to the next (and that might happen in, say, 3 weeks) you suddenly don’t feel worried about it. That’s when you go on your bike again.

  19. 6 weeks in, now, and got 100% ROM (though not without a little pain), without physiotherapy.
    I don’t recommend going without physiotherapy, only, I’ve been moving my arm so much (without any weight on it) as of about 1 week in, and then increasing to normal usage since 1 or 2 weeks ago, that PT doesn’t seem necessary. (But who knows, maybe I’m wrong about that.)

    Everything is going so well that I’d like to recommend my regime again, which has been: several grams of vit C daily, about 10,000 IU D3 with K2 (very very important, the K2, to get the calcium which I get from several tbsps of sesame seeds daily, in the right place), magnesium, zinc. And cypress oil and fir needle oil (with some others like helychrisum) on the shoulder to aid in circulation.

    I may be just lucky, with everything going so well, and the surgeon saying, at 1 week in, that it was looking “surprisingly good”, but I think the supplements really helped.

  20. Great site. 64 y.o. when I fell 2/24/19 on wet sloped sidewalk. Suffered left arm humerus, ulnar and Colles fractures; nerve and tendon damage. Walked 4 blocks home. ER set/cast my arm, sent me home. Bruised left side from waist to tips of fingers. Took 1 day off work after break and 2 days off with wrist surgery. L hand peeled 3 x post surgery. In sling 3 months. Great PT for 3 months but moved then lousy PT so quit. Painted/prepped house to sell pretty much alone. Bone scan showed osteoporosis so take alendronate, calcium & D3. Currently suffer chronic pain, trigger finger, shoulder ROM ~85%. Was afraid of falling but very careful. Wrist and hand a problem but really hate that I broke my shoulder. It’s the worst!

  21. My story started 28th June 2019. I fell over after turning around too quickly, went into a spin and hit the ground pretty quick. The pain was instant. I couldn’t move at all. It was the worst pain I could ever imagine. My house mate heard me screaming and was on the phone to the ambulance before he even got to me to see what was wrong. After many breaths of the little green whistle, my head was swimming and I was able to be moved. I don’t really remember anything from here til it was almost time to go home. In ER the scans showed a dislocation and fracture of the greater tuberosity. Apparently they reduced the dislocation, and 15 minutes later it popped out again. Apparently I was screaming, but I don’t remember this. So they reduced it again and slinged it in place. They gave me tramadol and practically pushed me out the door while my head was still swimming. I went to fracture clinic every week for 4 weeks, sprays showed bone healing. At 6 weeks post I was referred to physio. All was going well and I was improving slowly, but I still had a lot of pain with physio and I had gotten to a point where I just couldn’t get further movement. So the orthopedic doc referred me for a cortisone injection into the joint. I had this done and had a really bad reaction to it. My blood sugar levels went from 100 to 520. I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder. I became suicidal and was admitted to hospital. Shocking feeling!! Anyway that was in Nov 2019. Fast forward to fan 2020, cortisone is no longer working, I am still doing my exercises. But now I have less range of motion. I went and saw my GP, she sent me off for ultrasound which showed tear of supraspinatus tendon, diffuse calcium deposits and calcification of tendons. She referred me back to ortho clinic. I got a response saying they have no appointments and the wait is about 1 yr. In early March I heard and felt a massive crack with a strong pain for just a couple of minutes, but following this I lost even more range of movement. My GP sent another referral asking for an urgent assessment. I got the same standard response, be at least a year, then covid broke out. So I am presuming my 1 yr has blown out. As for contributing factors… I also found out I had Hyperparathyrodism during this time. Covid has also put my visit to endocrine surgeon on hold. I am on prolia injections 6/12ly for oesteoporosis. My bone scan wasn’t good. I had Cushing disease and had my pituitary gland removed 5 yrs ago. So none of that is going to help. Ohhh and I have Rheumatoid arthritis! Am I scared of falling again? Too right I am. I am 56 yrs old, and the ortho doctor told me with my bones if I fall and do a hip, that will be the end of Me!!! I have given up work, I am going to travel while I still can and if I’m still alive when the money runs out, then I’ll decide what I’m going to do. Not getting much medical help when I need it so may as well enjoy my life. Ps. I also have stage 4 cirrhosis with alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency as a co factor. I have never drunk alcohol . Maybe I should have lol.

    • I was pulled over by my dog and broke my right shoulder. Fracture of greater tuberosity and neck of humerus. Exact same bruising as in your pic. I’m 64 and do yoga and love swimming so am totally gutted and worried about ROM after. Start physio in 2 weeks. Am coping with the pain and grateful I have someone with me to help. Just gutted and worried. Am going to use Comfrey to help with healing.

  22. Broke the greater tuberosity and proximal humerus 4 weeks ago. Simply on a walk in the park (foot got caught in tree root.)

    Well, that was fun. I’m afraid I screamed in pain for quite a while. Also feeling sick etc.

    Told by surgeon that I had to be very careful in the coming week so the tuberosity would not (further) break (off.) If so, I’d need surgery. Went home in pretty blue sling.

    Well, I wasn’t going to risk needing an op.

    So, fun fact: I kept the same t shirt on night and day for 4 days. Then cut myself out of it.

    Looked up what sort of things could help with healing. Vit. C, according to Chinese research. In addition to a few grams of C I took vit. D3 + K2, Mg, Zinc, and essential oils which help with circulation (to wit cypress oil, pine needle oil, helychrisum.)

    Follow up visit after 1 week: surgeon said shoulder looks “surprisingly good”.

    Have been using my arm quite a bit lately, although that’s ahead of schedule. More or less cast my sling off. Wouldn’t be doing that if it didn’t feel right, but it does.

    Oh, and I’ve been eating a little healthier than usual. With a lot of sesame seeds, which provide large amounts of Calcium. (Don’t take Calcium supplements.)

    Hope this helps others.

  23. 11 weeks ago I slipped when walking into a building onto a shiny terrazzo floor. It had also been raining so my shoes were likely damp which may have contributed. After the fall I was initially nervous when out in rainy weather, though am more confident now. I have also applied a paint on sole grip to the shoes I was wearing for peace of mind. When the accident happened I hadn’t realised I was falling so had no opportunity to put my arm out to cushion the fall, landing on my right shoulder with my arm pinned under me. I remember rolling slightly one direction then back again from the momentum. Then thinking ‘I’ve fallen over, that’s embarrassing’, then a snap and momentarily thinking I was going to be sick. I was able to sit up and immediately felt the middle of my upper arm was painful and I was unable to move it away from my body, though could bend my elbow up and down ok. First aid was provided, then I caught a taxi home -about 45 mins from the city, drove manual car to GP, then xray and home again. Advised to go to hospital as fracture evident, got a lift there. I have a fracture of surgical neck and true neck of right humerus, displaced about 5mm with bones intact, and in collar and cuff for 7 weeks. Xray was also taken of wrist as painful and hand swollen, but no break. I too experienced extensive bruising from shoulder to elbow and around my arm over the following weeks and still have ongoing pain, stiffness and swelling in my upper arm and hand. I fell again on the arm a week later when in my garden, xray didn’t reveal any further damage. I have seen an orthopedic surgeon 3 times to check xray progress however have not had any assessment of soft tissue damage, which I think is likely based on how I fell and that my arm muscles and hand are still so stiff and sore. I have had 13 sessions of PT, commencing from week 4, and once collar and cuff removed active ROM exercises. The physio at week 9 started to use ballistic stretching with my arm which was really painful which resulted in me in tears at one session. Since then I have had 2 sessions with massage of my arm and hand to release knots and general tightness. Physio though states more aggressive therapy is needed as my ROM was only 120 in straight arm raising when it should have been at 140 based on the length of time since my injury. I’m feeling really pressured by the physio to meet the timeframes and am now so stressed I feel I don’t want to continue. I do the exercises most days am and pm and have been massaging my arm and hand to help relieve them. I was contacted by the hospital to enquire if I was interested in a bone scan, which I will probably do – I’m 62 and in the last 6 months was prescribed Vit D as my levels were so low, though it was straight after winter and working long hours meant I didn’t see much sun. Due to Covid 19 I was stood down from my employment and since then my manager has not responded to my request for alternative duties I might be able to undertake as part of a RTW program. I have been really distressed by this lack of professionalism. I have a rehab provider now and an anticipated trial return to pre-injury duties date of 27.6.20, whilst I think this is somewhat ambitious I’m hoping with the relaxation of lockdowns and isolation my employment will be reinstated soon and I will be back at work on reduced hours. I think this will go a long way to supporting my mental health which has been tested over the weeks, especially during the strict isolation period which for me was 7 weeks living on my own, unable to drive and taking public transport to medical appointments. Reading the experiences of others has been really helpful for me as I can relate on so many levels, and I don’t feel so isolated now in my journey. All the best for your recoveries.

  24. i am 62 years old. Broke my proximal humerus on April 17 after a horseback riding fall. I’ve seen younger girls at my barn take the same type of fall and walk away uninjured. I knew it was broken because the pain was so bad I could only sit in the dirt and not move until my husband got there and took me to the ER. After discussion the doc decided no surgery, just a sling the collar and cuff. Narcotic painkillers first week. I am so frustrated because I am one month out and still can not do anything.
    It started feeling little better so I decided to do some sewing on the machine, only to have the arm aching for three days afterwards. I asked the doc when I could ride again, and he said 4-6 months.

  25. I posted here back in Jan having fractured proximal humerus (avulsion fracture) in Nov 2019. Small tear supraspinatus seen on U/S soon after initial X-ray. Started physio properly in Jan and was doing well with ROM but pain at night never really improved. With Covid 19, physio stopped and although hospital have agreed to MRI to see why pain still bad, that too has no date. But since physio stopped, although still doing my exercises, my ROM is going backwards and pain is worse enough that I’m back on Naproxen (live in UK). Any advice gratefully received!

    • Oh Lucy, I am battling a bit now too in the USA. Briefly I will explain. 9/2018 I fell and snapped the humerus in half and crushed the head. Had first surgery 9/20/2018 and was plated and screwed together but head was not repairable. They wanted my humerus to repair for a year before going further, so I wore a sling from 9/2018 until my total reverse shoulder replacement 11/2019. I was not allowed any movement for 6 weeks, then I started ROM PT the end of December. And only ROM no strengthening yet. Then this Covid-19 hits and shuts down the PT. But like you, I am doing my exercises with the assistance of my hubby. I seem to be tightening up more and ROM is going a lil backwards. But until at least the end of May, no one is or out of this house except for hubby going to grocery store. (I am a diabetic and have oxygen at night due to bilateral vocal cord paralysis) Doc did tell me not to be in a rush because my healing will take a good 2 years.

    • Hi Lucy
      Like you my treatment has also been stopped without any PT even being started. I have gone back to heat & Ice because I cannot take anything other than Paracetamol for my pain, but I can apply Voltarol . Not wanting to upset you, but, perhaps because you had some movement back you are doing too much and not resting it enough, I say this because I know that I am guilty of it.
      Another thing you could try, have you heard of NLP ? My husband is trained in it, so I have technique
      to help. Imagine your pain is in your breath, using that you breathe in and expand your tummy expelling the air and blow up a red balloon blowing all your pain into it, repeating the action until the balloon turns paler and paler until it’s turned pink, when it’s full, you then release the balloon and watch it float away.
      Hope this helps

    • Sue smith
      I broke my shoulder in three places in January 2020 .Due to Covid 19 I too cannot have PT but I have been given exercises which I am still finding difficult.I have not been able to drive yet and my fingers will not bend as so stiff.Hand and fingers still swollen.Pain in shoulder is very persistent.especially when I walk any distance .I did not have review x ray due to covid and date set is for July 2020.I feel depressed at times as frightened I will not get a decent amount of mobility in my shoulder.I am 67 and have arthritis and believe this could interfere will my healing.Have anyone else had problems with upper muscle and hands and how long will I expect to be off work

      • Hi Sue
        I am in exactly the same position as yourself. I am 62 with Arthritis and osteoporosis, I also fractured my shoulder in January and have very limited mobility and lots of pain. I talked to my GP about it and that resulted in my Consultant arranging an appointment to re XRay to check there was no Necrosis, he was satisfied there wasn’t, my next appointment for an MRI is to be in 3 months time however he did say it can take up to a year or more to get back full mobility. I have also had some private PT organised by my GP too, currently it will be by face time.
        As to you returning to work, that may take time depending on which shoulder and by that I mean is it your dominant hand/shoulder that’s injured,

      • Hi Sue, I to broke my shoulder in Jan 2020 I am struggling too the pain and stiffness at night also when out walking. I have a consult over the phone even physio at times is hard to do. I feel as though I have tried everything ice, heat and paracetamol. Doesn’t help much as I also have a torn tendon from previous and developed a frozen shoulder, I am feeling really down as I was starting to get a little confidence back after falling over for the second time injuring the same shoulder.

        • Fell, had surgery, fell again and broke humorous under the screws and plate….in a sling and a handmade clamp brace by an Ortho
          ….

    • I am also having more pain and found out last week that my shoulder is freezing despite 20 rounds of PT and therapy at home. I broke my greater tuberocity 1/16/20. The doctor said sometimes the shoulder freezes and sometimes it doesn’t. I am on prescription pain killers and anti inflammatories as there is still a lot of swelling and blood in the shoulder. Hope this helps.

  26. I am grateful to have found these posts as I have been overwhelmed with the constant pain, inability to sleep and PTSD.
    I broke my humerus while on vacation the 2nd day. The pain was excruciating. While in a makeshift sling ( in Mexico) I ended up tripping on a step and falling on same shoulder. A week after home I went to ER as I felt like I was not healing. 1 week later I am in surgery and 3 screws were placed to put bone back together. It has been 4 weeks since surgeryand I struggle with constant painful aching and sharp shooting pains sometimes. I really thought I would not have pain like this after a few weeks. Good to know this is normal. I don’t start PT for another 2weeks or so.
    My fear of falling runs through my head more than I’d like to express. I see myself falling downstairs, tripping while walking, and reliving the falls in my head. I already feel better knowing this is normal and I am not alone. I have a thyroid disease, Hashimoto’s, and have been on daily medication for over 30 years. I am 54. Have had osteoporosis test and have it mildly.

    • Hi Elisa
      I fell and broke my humorous on Jan 20th 2020, mine was exactly as the Doctor above, except I tripped over a doorstop going into a shop, every XRay I was given showed another fracture showing four in total. The pain was excruciating, I can only take Paracetamol for pain relief, so that was fun. I was given a sling and after several weeks I returned to the Fracture clinic, I mentioned then that the last three digits on my hand had pins and needles and the whole arm occasionally goes numb, it was mentioned then that I may also have some soft tissue damage, this should have been checked at my last appointment, that has been cancelled due to the Pandemic. My range of movement is very limited, and I am still in lots of pain. I am quite worried that I because I cannot get PT or even see my Orthopaedic surgeon that the range I have now will be all I get back. This scares me.
      I already knew I had Osteoporosis and Arthritis I was due to start on Alondronic Acid intravenously but that treatment has also been cancelled. I can feel myself becoming depressed by the whole situation.

      • Hi Hilary
        Regarding PT, are you not able to have PT appointments by telephone? I am currently having PT telephone appointments since they’re unable to do face to face appointments. They send exercise details by email which include useful brief videos of what to do.
        Also you should be able to have a phone appointment to replace your last cancelled doctor’s appointment.
        I broke my humerus just under the shoulder on 6 Feb 2020, tripped over a cable. age 58, female.
        I hope you manage to have PT and that things improve for you.

        • Hi SSG
          Sadly no PT was arranged prior to my next appointment, which was to assess whether I need surgery to repair soft tissue damage or indeed a shoulder replacement.
          My GP and the hospital are only taking calls for emergency appointments, so I am unable to arrange even telephone appointments.
          I had a rotator cuff repair several years ago and still remember the PT
          exercises, but struggle to do them because of my limited movement, I have some forward and back, but no side to side or twist, however I worry incase I do more damage. Fortunately I am bi-lateral which helps, and a sister born with only One and a half arms so know all the tricks that aid me to get by.

  27. My fracture was July 2019 in Ireland I live in California. Got back ok, hated life for about 6 weeks then PT for 2 months. I lucked out I have full range of motion. Just got back from South East Asia, less cases over there than here. My point is hang in there. Stay home and do exercises. At the time you think it will never be over but it will! If you are not happy with what you Doc is telling you push for an MRI. I had to keep nagging and eventually they ordered it and found pelvic fractures. It healed on its own but I wanted to know where that pain was coming from.

  28. I broke my shoulder in December. I am still in pt and they say it’s doing very well. I have to tell you it hurts every time. It is worth it though. I am still working on my rom and am told it is coming. I think all the work is worth the pain. Can’t say the muscle aches have stopped. Some days are better than others. But there are worse things in life.

  29. I fractured my shoulder 8 weeks ago, tripped on a cable and landed smash on my shoulder. Humerus fracture just under the shoulder. Age 58, female. Arm/shoulder was immobilised in a sling for 6 weeks, and am now doing PT.

    Can anyone tell me what I can expect from the physio in terms of how much ROM improvement to expect and how soon? I know it’s not going to be quick but I would be grateful for any comments as to expectations.

    Also, will the arm muscle pain ever go away???

    • I broke my humerus at the shoulder on January 16th. I started PT after 6 weeks. I am getting good ROM after 5 weeks of therapy but I still have trouble sleeping and the pain in my arm is ever present although it is a lot better than a month ago. I am 53 and broke it while running. Hopefully you heal quickly and don’t have any long term issues with it.

  30. I think PTSD is a great description for FOF. For no discernible reason, I suddenly went flying through the air and landed on my left shoulder. Won’t go into details since so many before me on this site have done so. Broke my humerus just under the shoulder. It has been ten weeks. Eight in a sling. Doing PT now. Occasional stabbing pains, some aches, etc. I’m sure they will go away. But the uncertainty I feel now when out walking is upsetting. It’s a comfort to know so many others feel the same way. I fell before, but knew it was because I didn’t see a curb. I think that a fall with no explicable cause makes one feel very vulnerable and unsure. Will continue to battle this.

  31. What an amazing post. I am 2 and half weeks on from my spectacular fall which caused me to break my shoulder. It is so frustrating as I was due today to go on a two week trekking holiday with girlfriends in the andlusian mountains. I had been training and two weeks before had tripped on a bramble causing me a knee injury. Consequently when running for a bus with a heavy backpack my knee gave way and I flew like a dying swan, gliding along a wet pavement. Very undignified and then proceeded to faint! Rather attention seeking.

    So now home alone… Reading and enjoying seeing friends that are kind enough to come in and offer support.

    Generally I am envied by friends for having a high levels of fitness so as they say ‘pride comes before a fall’.

    It is certainly challenging to only have the use of my left hand. Yes showering, cooking, cleaning the fire etc and sleeping is a nightmare. My best solution to date is staying up to watch a good film until the early hours and then collapsing into bed.

    Another day nearer recovery…. Bring it on!!

  32. All of you have been so helpful. I found this article and it’s comment section at a time that I was so hopeless and feeling that I would always hurt and never be able to do things I love or anything normal again ever. That was a few weeks ago. I am better now for a variety of reasons one being this website. I am or was a very active 64 year old woman. I rode my horse almost every Friday weather permitting and walked my dog 2 miles every day rain or shine. The short story of how I broke my left shoulder on December 1, 2019 is that my big strong puppy who weighs 85 lbs grabbed her leash in her mouth and pulled. I almost caught my balance but in the end, there was a dip in the ground and I did a flying dive onto my left shoulder with my arm fully extended. It broke in 3 places.

    A sling and immobilizer and 8 weeks of never sleeping more than 2-3 hours at a time and of course all of the other problems and inconveniences listed in these comments. I was so sad and often felt like a two year old without a nap. I cried somewhat often just out of the blue. Then I found this website. My wrist hurt so bad more than my shoulder did. That is when I decided that my chiropractor could help that. I didn’t think I should go with broken bones so I hadn’t been since the fall. Turns out the break was only one result of the fall. I had 2 ribs out of place, one of the bones in my elbow was not aligned, my neck was definitely out, and several vertebrae popped like popcorn when he gently adjusted me. I honestly felt like a new woman as I left his office. It was then that I felt like I was finally starting to heal. My body was dealing with so much. I was able to move so much more during PT. Before I couldn’t move much at all because every movement was so painful. I thought I was being a baby and I should just push through. Honestly, after that first chiropractor visit my work at PT has been soo less painful and so much more productive. I have also found that massage therapy really helps. I also bought a new mattress yesterday, something I meant to do before the fall. I am sure this will help too.

    It’s been 3 months and I walked my dog for the first time today. It went well and we are both glad to be out even though we went for a very short distance. I will go with my friends on a horse camping trip but I will not be doing any riding yet. I don’t know when that will happen since right now it sounds really scary. But it will be nice to camp and at least be around them. I hope we all get back to our “normal”. The sooner the better. Agree?

  33. I’m seeking advice for blockage of full range of motion. I broke my left shoulder, the bones were close enough together to where surgery was not done, but used the sling to heal. Have been in PT for 7 months now and still have a blockage that is stopping full range of motion. Surgeon has been reluctant to go in and manipulate to clear the blockage. I’m wondering if someone else has been through this, I’m thinking this is not going to clear up on it’s own from further PT and I will have problems doing things the rest of my life and that it may make it easier to re-break with this blockage if I were to fall or hit my arm the wrong way, any suggestions out there? I’m really wanting to push the surgeon into doing the manipulation.

    • Hi Steph. Has your orthopedic surgeon told you there is a mechanical blockage (some bony structure preventing a full range of motion)? That would be good to know. I am not an ortho and we do not give medical advice here, but I would urge you to discuss the issue with your ortho, your PT, and seek a second opinion if you aren’t getting clear and, hopefully evidence-based, direction about what you should do.

      I will tell you that I found that I had to do the full set of PT exercises every day for about an hour for many months to get back my ROM. And, I had to do them on and off for over a year after that. Shoulders like to be moved. Your home exercise program is as important, if not more so, than the exercise you get during the short periods of time you spend with your PT.

  34. This is a great article – the pic of the arm bruising looks so familiar! I tripped over my grandmother’s hope chest in my darkened living room and my forward motion continued and I ended up falling and all my weight landed on my right shoulder. I thought i’d dislocated it, but the pain wasn’t bad and it didn’t feel like how others had described a dislocation. Ends up I broke it, proximal humerous ?) and I was given a sling. The pain was pretty bad for the 1st weeks so took time off work and then the bruising started and over the next few weeks traveled down my arm. It’s been 4 1/2 weeks since the break, I still can’t drive, but am gradually getting range of motion back. Hope to start PT in the next couple weeks. PTSD – never thought about it, but I am terrified of falling now and have to sleep with lights on. I’ve been afraid to walk outside due to snow – again scared of falling. I assumed my break was due to all of my weight (i’m terribly overweight) landing on my shoulder. Never thought that osteoporosis could play apart in the bone being more susceptible to breakage. I’m 60 and the fall makes me feel more timid. I’m hoping the PT gives me my confidence back. And has anyone else experienced the skin on the broken arm being very dry and flaky? That’s become the strangest part.

    • MRL,
      I had my fracture Oct 31, 2019. I’m still having physio. My arm was very dry and flaky as well, when I took off the sling it looked like snow. I purchased a very good moisturizer and a oil. I moisturize my arm several times a day and within a few weeks my skin was back to normal. I’m sorry to hear about your fall and I felt the same about falling again. I purchased the best boots with a good thread and sleep with a night light. I’m getting my confidence back and going out isn’t as scary.
      I hope this helped!
      Take Care,
      SD

      • My arm is flaky too. My sling looks like it is filled with snow. No one else ever mentioned it so I thought I was the only one.

    • I am amazed at the similarities in the stories in this blog and my story. I randomly fell in my sons room. The light was out so I am not sure if I stumbled over my own feet or something in his room. My fall scared my teenage son badly and husband came running. 5 weeks later and I do have some PTSD…. I am 58 and had total hysterectomy 14 years ago and no hormone replacement. Ortho doc says my bones actually look dense thou so good for me. My fall tore the rotator cuff off the humorous and brought bone with it. It has been in a immobilizer sling since that night and xrays showed beginnings of bone growth at 4 weeks. I have been out of work on FMLA. Stressed due to no work and pain has caused me to grind my teeth at night. And I broke a molar. PAIN. More stress. Doc says I should continue to heal and not need surgery. But I will eventually need physical therapy to rehab my arm. I am careful to not raise my arm or not take hand away from stomach while showering. Dressing is a challenge. To get a bra on I loop one of the straps over the doorknob of a closed door. I hold the hook end in my good hand and turn around so that it goes around my back. Both ends will end up directly in front of me and I can fasten it. All this while keeping arm directly at my side and hand on my stomach. Shirts are best if slightly oversized and very thin and short sleeved and stretchy. Start putting over bad hand then up bad arm then over head and lastly good arm. This takes time but can be done without pain if done slowly and don’t move arm. Also, I place soft dry washcloth under arm to absorb perspiration and change it as needed. Just some survival techniques I have figured out. I hope they help someone else. I go back next week for 6 week follow up and xrays. I hope to go back to work. Good Luck to everyone and let others help you. Depression is real and being around those who care is valuable.

    • Avatar Yes the skin on my right arm I broke my shoulder is exactly what you’re saying I could rub it and it just falls off

      Yes the skin on my right arm I broke my shoulder is exactly what you’re saying I could rub it and it just falls off

  35. This was an interesting article, thank you for sharing. I was stupidly hiking with friends on January 3, 2020, and only wearing street boots with little traction. While hiking through a particularly muddy portion, I started to slip and rather than fall, I instinctively clung to and hung from a boulder. I heard two large snaps in my shoulder before I let go and fell to the mud. I was vacationing in an area called the “death triangle” for medical care. I refused to go to the hospital and instead made a homemade sling for the next few days and did nothing with my arm. I went to an urgent care clinic in Portland, OR, when we returned to town the following day. The NP told me I probably strained ligaments/tendons/muscles and I didn’t break anything. She said the large bruise was probably because I hit a stick (wrong). She did not order images. I then saw my chiropractor who ordered x-rays, that did not show the break, he then ordered an MRI. My insurance carrier refused the order and did not approve the MRI until after I saw an orthopedic doctor who demanded they approve the order. One month later, I finally had an MRI which showed a “non displaced vertical fracture through the lateral aspect of the humeral head, less than 1 cm deep to the greater tuberosity, with surrounding 3 to 3.5 cm area of humeral head marrow edema, with some features of low signal intensity deep to the greater tuberosity suggesting micro fractures.” Luckily, the Orthopedic Surgeon said the break was healing. Initially no one told me to put my arm in a sling. I do hope my break heals well since I was never told to remain in a sling. I went back to work 3 days later. I do not lift with the arm, but I am keeping it mildly active and am receiving physical therapy. My orthopedic doc recommended a bone density scan which I have this Saturday. I am worried about osteoporosis, but would rather know now if that could have caused the break. I appreciate the post that told the nutritional value of certain foods. My naturopath also recommended 20 mg of collagen and another product called Regenmaxx. I feel quite fortunate that my injury is healing after reading of your injuries. I’m 64, have been taking thyroid replacement meds since I was 35. I remember reading the replacement drug can cause bone loss. I imagine knowing you have osteoporosis is a hard thing to deal with. I fear I may soon find out. Thanks for sharing all your experiences.

  36. Thank you for this post! I fell on January 16, 2020 while running a hard tempo run in the dark. Tripped over a bump in the road and landed on my face (broken nose) and “supermanned’ my right arm straight causing a displaced fracture of the greater tuberosity which extended through the humerus. I received a sling in the ER and a chest strap with cuff to hold my arm bent (I call it an immobilizer). The pain is much better after just over 2 weeks and I am wondering when I can start running again. My doctor says 3-6 months but I cannot fathom being away from running that long. Is there anyone out there that has had a similar fracture and was a runner (I am 53 BTW)? I am doing the elliptical at the gym with minimal discomfort but it isn’t the same as running :(

    • Did you ask your doctor why he said to wait 3-6 months before running again? Certainly, you want to be careful until your balance and confidence have returned to normal so you don’t fall again. Also, you need enough mobility in your injured arm so that your arm movements are more or less normal when running. I would check in with your doctor and/or physical therapist to get a clearer picture.

      • Thank you for reading my post.

        I sure did. He said that’s how long it takes to heal. I haven’t started PT yet…I hope to soon. I just wonder if that is a typical time frame for healing or if he is just being very conservative.

          • Thank you, Pat, for this site and for the Broken Shoulder post. I wish I had discovered it sooner. I broke my shoulder – proximal humerus – in two places and sprained my wrist in November 2019, 5 days before my 56th birthday. I was walking home from an event and tripped on some uneven pavement about 40 feet from my townhouse. I was caught completely off guard, but still landed on my hands and knees. The shopping bag I was holding in my left hand went flying, and I think my right dominant arm took most of the pounding because my left arm was preoccupied. I was in a lot of pain but forced myself to get up. I walked to my house and laid down, feeling nauseous. I am a very active person, a runner and cyclist. I told myself I just needed some sleep even though I couldn’t move my arm. I had never broken a bone before. The next morning, I asked my daughter to take me to the ER. I didn’t need surgery and was immobilized in a sling for 4 weeks. I had to learn to do everything with my left hand alone. Like at least one other comment I read, I wore the same turtleneck for days until I was finally able to remove it on my own. And the weeks that followed meant no driving, sleeping on my back and elevated for short time periods, and having to be extremely careful in the shower. The bruising was unbelievable. As I slowly made progress, I knew I had a long road ahead. I had 4 weeks of PT in February 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown. My last Ortho visit was on Feb 19, 2020 at which time she told me I could start running again; so that was 3 months after my fall. That was based on the fact that my humerus healed nicely and I was in good physical health; but I wasn’t mentally quite ready to run yet. I was anxious to get back into shape, but didn’t actually start running again until mid-May, 6 months after my fall. So, I find it very interesting that Linda’s doctor told her to wait 3-6 weeks before running again. I never thought about the PTSD aspect of the fall but did have a few bouts of depression early on. This also happened at the end of an incredibly stressful 2019. It’s common to think that events like this are telling us to slow down, and sure that was needed; but I don’t believe that was the primary reason for the fall. I was meant to learn more from it and still am on a personal level. My doctor told me that I would continue to make progress for 12-15 months. I still cannot sleep on my right side for more than a few minutes, I still have daily pain, and my ROM is not 100% yet, and I don’t know if it ever will be. My doctor also told me about the possibility of Avascular Necrosis (AVN) in the future. The death of bone tissue due to a loss of blood supply is a possibility, requiring shoulder replacement surgery. Reading some of the comments here reminded me that the full healing process is long, and that I must continue with PT on my own, maybe forever; but the FOF will never disappear completely.

              • An update…I started running March 7 (a little less than 3 months after my fall). Started to feel pretty good until May when my knee started hurting and swelling. Fast forward, I tore the meniscus in 2 places had knee surgery on June 17 (they also released by frozen shoulder at the same time). Started running all over again 3 weeks later right in the heat of summer. I have felt like crap and am so slow now it makes me depressed. I have some necrosis in the shoulder, it is still bruised (after 7 months) and my ROM is getting worse again. I guess I build up that kind of scar tissues that causes it to freeze up. To make my story complete, my knee now hurts the same as before the surgery and stays swollen all the time :(

  37. Hi,

    It’s really interesting to read others that have had similar experiences to me and to also know that we all have the same questions and fears. I suffered a comminuted fracture of the left humoral neck as well as the left great tuberoisity on 18th December, when someone accidently tripped me up at a busy train station. I too had a heavy backpack on, which probably didn’t help as I fell. I’m now on week 6 and have had 2 hospital sessions of physio and although the fractures where initially displaced and surgery mentioned the hospital said not much was to be gained, it is now healing thankfully, I’m still unconfortable and scared of crowds. I don’t remember osteoporosis being mentioned, but I am concerned as this runs in my family (I’m 52).im not back at work yet, but wondering when it’s likely to heal fully (I work in an office)

    • Hi Tracy, I agree that this forum is very reassuring and made me feel less alone. I also fractured my non-dominant humoral neck. Like you, crowds made me anxious for a bit and I wore the sling outside the house for 7 weeks. There was some early talk of surgery, but luckily the bone healed on its own. I would say it took a full 3 months for the bone to completely heal, although I was feeling better at about 8 weeks. My primary care doc sent me for a bone density scan to rule out osteoporosis (I’m a few weeks away from turning 48). Luckily I was ok on that front.

      • Thanks Sherri,
        That’s really helpful advice. yes I’ll ask for a scan. Im due for my 8 week xray next week and still in pain, and quite tired, hoping to go back to working phased hours if I can, but just wondering when the pain is likely to go completely. Just a waiting game I guess.

    • Tracy,
      I’m still in recovery after 3 months today. I’m having physiotherapy and I will probably continue till the end of March. I was also afraid of going out and crowds, I’m getting more comfortable. I suggest you go out with a friend or family member until your comfortable. I walk much slower to avoid tripping. My PTS is improving. Let people go around you, or let them go ahead. I say go ahead…I’m slow. I do suggest a scan for osteoporosis. A fracture doesn’t always been you have bone loss, however at age 52 it might be wise to get a base line. I hope this information is helpful. I wish you all the best in your recovery!!!

      • Hi Jennifer,

        Thanks for your reply, it’s really helpful. Ive got my 8 week xray next week, hopefully it’s healing OK. I’m still in pain, but I guess it will be like that for a while still then. I’m hoping to back to work on phased hours shortly all being well, I’m going to ask for a scan too. All the best with your continued recovery!

  38. Thanks for creating this page! I found it very difficult to get information following my greater tuberosity fracture 5 weeks ago when I slipped on ice when de-icing my car the week before Christmas (I can honestly say there are easier ways to get out of cooking Christmas dinner!). I wore a collar n cuff sling for 4 weeks and am now only using it when the pain is particularly bad.
    A lot of what I have read is familiar and definitely for me dressing and undressing was the worst. I was terrified of showering so the first few days I used baby wipes to wash and deodorant wipes were a lifesaver! I spent a fortune buying easy to get on / pull up clothes but 5 weeks on it’s much easier although still painful. Bras are still a problem but I’ve bought lots of stretchy crop top type bras which are not perfect but OK.
    I start physio this week but found some exercises on an NHS website which I’ve been doing and my movement and strength is improving. My bruising is almost gone now, but like many of you sleeping is a nightmare… I was told I could try to lie down in bed, but this was too sore so I’m back sitting up. My husband bought a v pillow on the day I had my accident which has been well worth the money.
    I too have flashbacks to the fall – usually as dreams and am very nervous of falling again. We have a special holiday planned for September travelling to the US and visiting the Grand Canyon and Yosemite where I imagine the terrain will be very uneven and I am worrying about that. Hopefully all will be ok.
    Finally in answer to your question I was not asked about osteoporosis (I am 54) and we do have a strong family history of it, nor were any questions raised as to why I fell, probably as it was an icy morning and I was one of many fractures in the ED! Get well soon everyone!

  39. I fractured my prosiminal humorous October 31 2019 almost 12 weeks ago. I was in a sling 9 weeks, the last 3 weeks I was allowed to take the sling off for controlled motion exercises.
    I’m also a fast walker and tripped over a box and flew into a wall with my left arm extended.
    It is a very bad break. I’m 62 with osteopenia (severe) I started on Phase 111 progressive motion last week. I can now start raising up arm. It’s very difficult. I hope with time I will see more improvement. I also suffer from PTSD. I saw a therapist and I think it was very helpful. I went from walking like a race horse to a turtle. I have good balance, I can stand on one foot for more than a minute no problem and can close my eyes for 10 seconds on one foot, so balance is not a problem. I have little pain, doing exercises will cause some discomfort and when I get up in the morning I’m a little stiff. I take extra strength Tylenol now for the throbbing about once a day.
    I think sleeping was the worst for me, 9 weeks wearing a sling to bed was uncomfortable. Can someone on this link tell me what their experience was with physiotherapy and how their doing with their ROM. I’m a little freaked out about how much ROM will return.
    I’m great full for this post and hearing about others experience with this injury, it is a great help and comfort knowing others had some of the same feelings and experiences.
    Thank you!!!

  40. I am recovering from a broken humerus from a fall on ice. I have never experienced such pain. Everyday is a little better. I am in a sling for 2 more weeks. Each day I feel that I try to do just a little more than the day before. This week I have accomplished driving by taking off my sling. I am lucky that I did not need surgery. I am just so mad because I feel the whole incident never had to happen. I look forward to future pain free days. I am a bit concerned because I see more bruising in new places 5 weeks after the injury when most of the original bruising has disappeared.

  41. After my 10/15 slide & fall in wed much atop a brick pathway, for 2 months I grew new bone very well. 15-week X-ray update is scheduled for Feb 3.

    Age 71, I was 6 months into personal training with a focus on muscle-and-bone building following report that osteopenia was progressing.

    While I did have fear of falling after my injury (non-displaced comminuted proximal fracture + 2-3 cm displaced greater tuberosity), which I do think has a PTSD component (at the time of my fall, I also was 6 months into EMDR for car-crash post-concussion PTSD), my good news is:
    1. persistent PT is improving my range of motion very well; and
    2. New bone growth has bonded my tuberosity back to the humerus.

    While I’m very worried about recently presenting intermittent stabbing pain in the injured areas – I’m worried about the possibility of necrosis and hope there’s maybe another explanation for the increasing intensity, frequency, and duration of that stabbing pain that’s showed up recently – in the other hand, UK very pleased with how my nutritional supplementation seems to be working to grimie new bone ‘brick & mortar’.

    After reading UNC’s Amy Lanou’s book on bone vitality – before my injury, I read it as soon as I gut that feedback that my osteopenia was worsening – I devoted many hours to searching fir good food sources for all the vitamins, minerals, and other macro/micro nutrients to help my osteoblasts out-pace my osteoclasts.

    Here’s what’s working for me (fingers crossed no necrosis is interrupting blood supply):
    1. In addition to the following foods, I’m also taking B12, Ca, K2, and D3 supplements – with a multivitamin too.
    2. My daily meal plans include plenty of each of these ‘bone fertilizer’ minerals, vitamins & other nutrients central to osteoblast bone-building:

    MINERALS

    Boron – almonds, lentils, red wine:
    👉 required for body to use Calcium (“Ca”), magnesium (“Mg”), and vitamin D to make strong bones.

    Copper – almonds, sesame seeds, shiitake mushrooms:
    👉necessary for (1) collagen formation & (2) bone mineralization. Low levels increase osteoporosis.

    Fluoride – tea, potatoes, grapes/raisins/red wine:
    👉hardens minerals in bones & teeth.

    Magnesium – Quinoa, black beans, heated spinach, almonds, sesame, avocado, Edamame, tofu:
    👉Without it, vitamin D cannot move Ca into bone. Mg deficiency is major risk factor for Osteoporosis.

    Manganese – oats, chia&pumpkin seeds, pecans, tofu, heated spinach, pineapple, green tea:
    👉necessary for (1) collagen formation & (2) bone mineralization. Man deficiency is major risk factor for fractures.

    Phosphorus – lentils, chickpeas, SPROUTED sunflower&pumpkin seeds, mixed nuts: almond, cashew, Brazil, pine nuts:
    👉For strong bones, calcium must combine with phosphorus.

    Silica – coffee. Apples. Celery. Whole-grain bran. Almonds, Peanuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds. Tofu, Beets, Carrots, Garlic, Ginger, Onions, Fresh turmeric. Strawberries, tomatoes. Potatoes, Sweet potatoes:
    👉necessary for crystallization of calcium.

    Zinc – peanuts. Sesame, sunflower & pumpkin seeds. Quinoa & Oats. Repairs. Tofu & Tempeh. Cashews & almonds. Brown rice.
    👉helps build the collagen framework for bone.

    VITAMIN

    Vitamin A – carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, sweet potato, kale, dandelion greens
    👉 bone-building osteoblasts cannot develop properly without it.

    Vitamin C – citrus, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, potatoes, beans
    👉necessary for formation of bone collagen.

    Vitamin B6 – carrots, spinach, peas, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cabbage, cantaloupe, avocadoes, bananas, beans
    👉without it, bones are weak.

    Vitamin B12 – Nori, Tempeh, FORTIFIED Nutritional Yeast, SUPP
    👉osteoblasts cannot build bone without it.

    Vitamin D – sunshine, light-exposed mushrooms, SUPP
    👉By itself or with Ca, no osteoporosis cure. Necessary, but not sufficient, to build bone strength. Essential, to incorporate Ca & Phosphorus into bone.

    Vitamin K2 – sauer kraut, Tempeh, kombucha + SUPP
    👉Crucial to incorporation of mineral crystals into the collagen matrix. Low levels increase fracture risk.

    Folic acid* – Crucifers (dark leafy greens, pulses, Quinoa, mango, parsnips, chia/flax
    👉Helps prevent bone demineralization

    AND
    Essential fatty acids (EFAs, Omega 3 ‘ALA’ & 6 ‘LA’) – chia and hemp seeds, edamame, walnuts, beans
    👉Necessary to create and maintain healthy collagen matrix and (2) normal bone mineralization.

    Protein – beans & greens
    Too much destroys bone; modest amount of plant protein is
    👉key component of bone’s collagen matrix.

    *Folate is the naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. Before entering your bloodstream, your digestive system converts it into the biologically active form of vitamin B9 ⁠— 5-MTH

    If our bones were just sticks of calcium, they would be sticks of chalk, right? But they’re not. Bones are living cells (mature osteoblasts) held inmobile in a lattice of protein-rich collagen whose sponge-like spaces are filled by crystals of hardened calcium compounds and other minerals.

    Fingers crossed my blood vessels are still delivering all this to my bone repair process. Xrays look good; so do my fingernails!

  42. I slipped on wet mud on brick sidewalk during an early morning fast walk with a neighbor almost 3 months ago & went by ambulance to ER where xray confirmed comminuted fracture of proximal humerus (not displaced) and displaced greater-tuberosity frscture. Just one cm, and a week later 2-4 cm.

    Similar-sounding lit review Baylor Orthopedic surgeon (TX Med Center), advising no surgery since recent studies show no outcome differences with surgical vs non-surgical.

    I’m age 71, professionally and physically active, socially independent. With long-standing osteopenia, like you concerned about possible osteoporosis- but bone-healing nutrition seems to be building new bone well.

    2 months of effective pain management (initially 800 mg Ibuprofen + 1/2 Percocet tabs for a few weeks, lately a few Advil every 2-4 days – mainly, before PT. Range of motion good and getting better.

    For the last 10-14 days, though, I’ve been experiencing sharp stabbing pain in both the tuberosity and also the comminuted injury areas. Why? These intermittent pains are usually short duration but day before yesterday began during a breakfast meeting, persisted through afternoon PT, and reached intensity around 17 (on 10-point scale) by 8pm. Back to 1/3 Percocet with its pain-mgmt efficacy and unpleasant side effects.

    Can’t find any info about why severely intense localized pain might suddenly present nearly 3 months after injury?
    • Osteoclastic activity, part of the healing process? or
    • avascular necrosis (AVN), maybe a blood vessel ruptured and hasn’t repaired, leading to some bone death?
    Or
    • something else?

    Next xray update is Feb 2. I’ve worried about risk of necrosis – LOTS of subcutaneous bleeding took 8 weeks to clear out. But MD says CT eval not needed because there’s nothing to be done but wait and see.

    I’d be very glad to know whether anyone else has experienced severe stabbing pain in injured area(s) a few months after injury, following months of steadily reducing pain, and what the explanation turned out to be.

    I did have fear of falling, but have gotten back out in the waking trails and seem to be overcoming that ok. Had just completed months of EMDR for post-concussion PTSD symptoms, which maybe helped. Still some apprehension – I don’t walk after rains when eater is ponded and/or road/path is wet. And I’m much more vigilant about where I’m stepping. But I’m back waking again.

    Good luck with your recovery!

  43. It’s almost 6 months since my fall and fracture, I was very lucky because I healed so well. At times I can’t believe how horrible it was at the time. I am saying this to make people realize there is life after a fall. I was so afraid to walk afterwards every crack in the sidewalk looked like the Grand Canyon. Slowly my fear went away. I do think I am more careful walking now, but I have gotten my life back. I was treated with IV reclast for my osteoporosis. I had refused meds for years but the fracture pain made me realize I did not want to go through that again. My fall was different than previous falls in that I have no memory of going through the air like I have when I fell in the past. I decided not to get worked up for any neurological problems. Actually my Dr did not even ask about that, I think if I brought it up she may have ordered more tests. I am 72 and retired, my husband is 73. My son suggested I slow down but just like Pat I am not listening to him! February we leave for Thailand,Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam for 6 weeks. This site was very helpful for me. It would be great to have an app with all the info this site has. Good luck everyone!

  44. Suffered a mildly displaced glenoid fracture of left shoulder a few days ago. Also damaged both knees. Unable to take the pain medications. Went back to work three days after my break. I find that I am exhausted after only four hours at work. Very difficult to do everything with one arm. Dressing and showering without help is exhausting. No one asked me about osteoporosis or any other problems I might be having. Immediately after the fall I had some blurry vision although I did not strike my head. I also suffered some nausea. Work exhausts me almost to the point of anxiety. I feel like I need to take some time off work to adjust, but I cannot afford it. Very very stressful. I live alone.

  45. I suffered a similar proximal humerus 2-part fracture of my left shoulder 6 days ago, but I also have mild displacement. I am an active 70-year old female with no osteopenia of my spine (t-score +0.5) but mild osteopenia of my hip (t-score -1.4). For my 70th birthday I climbed Mt Fuji, and I do 3 exercise classes weekly (2 silver sneakers and 1 zumba), using 5-pound weights. I have good balance.

    I was rushing to catch the bus to pick up my car, on a concrete sidewalk, looking at maps on my phone in my left hand when I tripped/slipped on my right foot and fell to the concrete on the side of my left shoulder — I did not hit my head; my only other injury was a slight abrasion on the left side of my left knee. My arm hurt and I had limited motion due to pain, but I assumed it was just a bad sprain. I walked 2 miles, caught the bus, drove home (manual!!), then had a friend drive me to the ER that night.

    I can move my shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers with no pain. I cannot raise my arm to the side (chicken-like) without a lot of pain. I have only taken OTC acetaminophen, about 2000 mg daily. I want to feel a slight ache to gauge my progress. The first two days it hurt to stand up, and I quickly found that stabilizing my left shoulder with my right hand was an enormous help when rising I have improved such that this is no longer necessary. I also found it helped to stretch my arm straight down, pulling on it with my right arm, to allow more room in the socket. I mentioned both of these to the (4-day follow-up visit with the) orthopedic doctor and he confirmed this was good. Now I do not feel the need for this either and can even rest my arm gently on the elbow without pain.

    I found your website when I googled bruising after fractured shoulder — I finally took a shower last night and was shocked at the large purple bruise running from my armpit to my elbow, but was much relieved to see this is normal as mine seems less wide than yours.

    Yes — the ER doctor delved into the reasons for fall, specifically whether I blacked out before or after, elder abuse, loss of balance. I believe I offered that I had mild osteopenia of the hip, but at the subsequent orthopedic follow up visit that doctor was more interested in the exact levels. So far no one asked about me emotionally, but it was clear I had support from friends and my son. I do feel cautious now, particularly with my arm in a sling, since I don’t want to further injure the shoulder and I am less capable of using my hands should I fall. But I consider it a normal caution for the circumstances and at least for now not a fear. Both doctors confirmed I did not need surgery.

    I would find all support programs helpful. I found pictures of the bruising most reassuring. I found the solutions for “sudden-onset handicap” helpful (I discovered I could twist the ice cube tray with one hand by wedging it between the drawer and counter and twisting!!). I have just a little trouble sleeping but it is much more comfortable (less achy) the more upright I am.

    What I find not addressed here or by either doctor was supplement suggestions. My calcium and D are satisfactory (9.9 and 54 respectively) but research suggests eating more protein and more vitamins now — I am taking Bone-up by Jarrow (C, D, K, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, and small amounts of Manganese and Potassium). I am hoping that these support the bone-building as well as my immune system to aid in the recovery.

    Thank you for your posting, and thanks to everyone else who shared

    • Hi, I fell 6 weeks ago, stumbled up a small step, staggered for a while and fell finally on outstretched arms. Felt instant pain in left arm, wave of nausea and instant complete weakness. X-ray showed avulsion fracture greater tuberosty and partial tear Supraspinatus. I had a sling given to me but almost no advice as to what to do and not do. I have worn the sling on and off for 4 weeks and had another X-ray then that showed that the break was healing (only minimally displaced) and that the Supraspinatus tear hadn’t increased. I think I was so relieved as I have 3 teenage boys and a busy life, so really did and still do too much. Daytime pain now ok but night time is so disturbed still. Taking Naproxen 3 times daily, but even though sleeping semi reclined, as soo as I slip down the bed, I’m woken by a gnawing pain down my arm. Are there any suggestions for a better night or how long this will go on. I’d hoped that it would all be sorted by now 😔

  46. I came across this article while researching info about shoulder fractures. I have identical fractures as described by the author. I fell 4 1/2 weeks ago; it was a freaky fall against the back of my recliner. I suffered a dislocated shoulder, which caused the fractures. I actually fell on my other shoulder. I have weakened leg muscles due to bilateral hip replacements and fall fairly often. This was the first serious injury, though, surprisingly. My surgeon recommended no surgery and PT, which has thus far been going well. Both my therapist and my doctor are impressed with my range of motion this early.

    I am an RN so I have thought about osteoporosis, but I have not been asked about it. I plan to talk to my doctor about it at my follow up.

    I’m definitely afraid of falling now more than ever. Of course I broke my dominant arm’s shoulder. I am unable to write yet due to weakness and pain–concerning as that’s a lot of what I do at work as a nurse manager.

    The toughest part for me has been dressing myself. One day early on I had been trying to put on my bra and tee shirt for one and a half hours. I was in tears and then somehow got the strap of my sling caught in the strap of my bra and couldn’t get it out. I wound up covering up and going to a neighbor (still crying) for help. Embarrassing!

    Ironically, when I fell I had an appointment to start PT to strengthen my legs 3 days afterwards.

    • Hi Lori,

      I can totally feel your pain. Having to ask for help with your bra from a neighbor must have been awful…for you, not the neighbor.

      It is too bad that the medical care system minimizes the impact of a shoulder fracture on your life. I get why they do that. After all, the injury isn’t life-threatening.

      I was a practicing physician for many years. But putting a patient hat on, I can attest that my shoulder fracture, although not so bad as to require surgery, disrupted my life in many ways. For me, the worst was fear of falling – which still plagues me today – although less severely than in the first 3 or 4 months. Now, I always make a point of watching where I put my feet.

      I am glad you found us – I hope that you will find “talking” about the challenges related to the fall and fracture with others facing the same things can be quite useful.

      I am so glad you are getting your range of motion back.

      Pat

  47. I live in New Zealand, though born and raised in the USA. Married a NZer and came over here in 1978. I am 78. I am one of those rushing-around fast ones. On a Sunday morning the 20th of September (about 10 – 11 weeks ago) I crossed the street and tripped on the curb. Tried to right myself but saw I couldn’t so put out my right arm as I fell, across the footpath, my head landing in soft weeds, rather than hitting a wooden fence… But the fall was fast and hard and my shoulder hurt. I held it with my left hand and lay there groaning for probably 15 minutes until a passing vehicle saw me and stopped, and then another two. They called an ambulance, but all the ones within reasonable distance were busy, so it was about an hour altogether I think before I was aboard and on my way to the ER in the nearest hospital, 30 minutes drive away over a mountain range.
    X-ray showed a horizontal fracture of the neck of the humerus and verticle fracture of the greater tuberosity. Fortunately not out of line. With pain meds and a sling I was sent home, with not much instruction at all… Fortunately I had 1/2 hour a day of home help, paid for by the universal Accident Compensation insurance here in NZ (which also paid all other medical costs).
    My dear husband of 54 years, though not well himself, was there for me especially in the night when I got up and down to the bathroom and couldn’t reach to pull the blankets up over me again, and he also help with my evening bathing. ACC provided a seat over the bathtub (which I used until I felt I could get out of the bathtub from lying down in the nice hot water — which gave my shoulder some hydrotherapy…). Also they provided a toilet seat which raised it up about 2 inches and made it a lot easier to get up and down. Friends gave us some food for the first week or two as well, which helped heaps, as I could do only what one can do with the left (non-dominent) arm, which doesn’t include CUTTING board jobs…
    After 4 days, when I managed another change of clothes, I was just about bowled over by the blackness of my upper arm! No one told me it would bruise like that. It gradually went on down even slightly into two of the fingers, before gradually fading away. Took ages. The ortho young lady doctor told me that a lot of that (or at least some) would have been from the BONE MARROW which leaked out from the break! That was fascinating to me!!! Never ever heard of that or thought it would happen.
    It has healed well (have had two follow-up X-rays and due another Dec. 17th). Apparently I must not have bad osteoporosis or it would have been MUCH worse, and from a few other hard falls in the last 20 years I could have had some bad breaks. I am thankful for health knowledge which has led us to do all we know how to do to prevent it (i.e. we are vegan vegetarians, and have no tea or coffee and only moderate salt, and realize that an excess of protein can also contribute to it. That is because if a large part of the diet is meat, etc, or other high protein foods, the body, not getting enough healthy complex carbohydrates to burn for energy, and so has to use the carbohydrate that is in the protein, which leaves a lot of nitrogen waste in the body, which the kidneys must excrete. They don’t like the acid urine so may need to neutralize it by robbing calcium from the bones.)
    At my doctor’s visit and x-ray about 10 days after the fall, I was shown some mild exercises. But mostly I just gradually tried to do slightly more all the time with my arm in order to avoid a frozen shoulder, and at my 6 week check the Dr was VERY pleased at what I could do so didn’t think I needed to go to the physiotherapist. I am told it will take 6 months to come right completely, but I believe I must have recovered around 90% of my use of my right arm now.
    I have VERY much enjoyed reading all these experiences of others, and appreciate them so very much. The FOF is certainly a big reality, especially at my age. And night time is the worse, getting comfortable, and especially in the bed with my sweet husband, it can be tricky! :) :) He has been very good and considerate though and now I can actually turn over on my right side for awhile sometimes and put my good arm around HIM!
    I was able to stop all pain meds at about 4 or 5 weeks I think, but still have a little bit right up top of the arm with certain movements, like I can’t quite reach to wash under my LEFT arm, with my bad one, etc, etc. But I can hand up the clothes/laundry on the clothesline now! (YES, we still use them here in New Zealand!!!) Fortunately my husband was good at doing that for me, and bringing them in again when dry.

    THANKS to all.
    Rosalie Wainwright

  48. I had 3 part proximal humerus fracture and ORIF to fix a year ago. PT resulted in nominal improvement in flexion and external rotation. Had MUA 3 months ago with some improvement in passive ROM. CT scan last week identified nonunion of a 1 inch piece of bone along posterior margin of glenohumeral joint where infraspinatus attaches, and high grade tearing of posterior superior labrum. I am pretty much deformed. I worked my butt of in PT and kept a positive outlook based on blogs saying it gets better. It’s been a year now and I am pretty much at my wits end with function and quality of life issues. Now this. I don’t know what to do next.

  49. I’m a probably a bit late to the party here but I fractured my greater tuberosity (non-displaced) 3 years ago at age 43. My injury didn’t come from a fall – I was bringing a friend’s horse in from the field as a favour, when he spooked and took off, twisting my arm up and across my body with a heck of a force before bucking and giving my shoulder a good knock just to make sure it was broken!! I thought I had gotten off lightly with a non-displaced fracture and was almost a bit smug about just how lightly I’d gotten off…until I developed secondary frozen shoulder. I’ve since had a hydro-dilatation, three capsular releases (which by all accounts is highly unusual), 40+ physio sessions, and hydrotherapy. I’ve also been swimming, doing Pilates and of course, all my prescribed exercises. Three years later, I still haven’t got all of my movement back. During arthroscopy for all three surgeries, apart from scarring and synovitis, everything looked normal. It’s a mystery as I don’t have any health problems/comorbities etc. Who knew a relatively minor fracture could lead to long-term problems. I still haven’t been discharged by my shoulder consultant (I’m in the UK). So interesting to read about others’ experiences and I’m glad others here have had more positive outcomes.

  50. A few tips and questions. I’m in 8th week of broken shoulder. No surgery. Healing going well. My physiotherapist suggested keeping dry washcloth, changing frequently, in armpit when in sling. Helps with rash. Same under breasts at night, just a light cotton under cloth/shirt. I didn’t wear button down — found it easier to use baggy tshirts, hang arm down to get into it, then pull rest over head and second arm. Using all natural baby wipes helps for frequent cleaning of sensitive parts if shower too difficult.

    It will get better, but seems like forever. Even at 8 weeks, still painful (mostly from PT exercises, but still frustrating). And hand and wrist still a bit numb. Arm still a bit swollen, although the horrid bruising almost gone.

    My question is, do some of you still have numbness even after such a long time, 8 weeks? Seems like should be gone by now?

    • And, Dr. Salber, thanks again for this post, and I realize I just moaned a bit instead of giving you some answers. Here are some answers:

      Were you asked about osteoporosis? Were you offered screening for the condition? NO to both.(And I am age 62, and have osteopenia, frankly, didn’t even think of that as a factor when it happened. It was a hard fall, from dog pulling at a leash, but perhaps without osteopenia, injury would have been less.)

      Were you evaluated for underlying or contributing reasons for the fall (e.g., balance problems, vision problems, safety issues in the home? No, because it was clearly from the dog running after a squirrel and me not letting go! But in terms of safety, I guess, yes, in the respect that I was asked if I felt safe in my environment and home (presumably trying to get a possible abuse.)

      Did you experience significant emotional sequelae were present after the fall/fracture? Did any of your health professionals ask about or offer help with these symptoms? I was concerned about falling due to not being fully balanced, no one asked me about if I had emotional issues from being afraid of falling. Interesting thing is now, 7 weeks on, I’m finding I’m a little more fearful. That’s because I no longer am wearing sling, am sort of getting back to “normal” and am afraid I’ll suddenly make a wrong move. Whereas before I was being super careful. So, one aspect of an after care program would be “two months on”, etc.

      Would you fine a program, such as the one described in the Challenge description helpful? Would you use it? In my case, I actually had a nasty fall in college – many moons ago. I only got a bad bruise, it was slipping on icy stairs (outside). But since then I’ve been a bit cautious. Also have a lot of stairs in my house, marble stairs, so am always “aware” of that potential. I do not know if I would use a program such as that proposed because I’m quite aware of it already, it’s not really much worse than before, and I am working hard to get into better shape to avoid falls. But I think it’s an excellent and neglected idea.

  51. I tripped over my own feet and broke my shoulder about 17 years ago. It was the day before Thanksgiving, & I was thankfully out of school (teaching) and on my way to pick up table decorations. I stepped from the parking lot up to the sidewalk in front of the store, in sensible shoes, my left foot hit ball first, I lost my balance and started to tumble forward toward the plate glass, threw my left arm out and fell sideways with my arm outstretched. Wow, what a hard fall. As I started to get up, I realized I could not use my left arm at all. People helped me up, my purse had scattered debris everywhere, & someone got me into the store. I felt half nauseated,& very rattled. People were bring my stuff from purse to me. (Two days later, my MasterCard company called me to alert me of two $800+ purchases the same afternoon I fell, were these mine? No! One of those nice people helping me had ripped me off.) The store wanted to call an ambulance, I refused. I asked for a glass of cold water, but brought me a cold compress. If I did not move my left arm/ shoulder AT ALL, I felt no pain, the minute it wiggled, it hurt a lot. I went to my car, and found that getting in and driving with just my right arm was doable. I went home, and somehow got myself out of a pullover into a button up shirt, knowing that I’d be xrayed. I got my ice water & a book, and headed to the closest hospital, but that ER was packed. Forget it. I drove to the one 15 minutes away, & it was dead quiet. The triage nurse, seeing my droopy left arm, took me right in. X rays were excruciating since they kept putting my arm in different positions. They told me that my shoulder was broken, & I’d need to see an ortho, & put me in a sling. I got through the next week very gingerly, but I returned to my job and taught my middle schoolers, thank goodness they aren’t grabby like little kids so I could count on them not to jostle me. Finally the appointment, in which the Dr. gave me a much better apparatus, that velcroed around the waist, and snugly tucked my arm in with two velcro bands for support. Six weeks to not move it at all. Then 3 months of 3 times a week physical therapy, and I got 95% mobility back, when I had started with 20%.
    As far as anyone asking me about osteopenia, which I do have, no.. they didn’t. I didn’t even know I had it until a couple years later. Asked about balance, dizziness, vision, safety in the home? No. I’m not sure what you mean by emotional sequelance, unless you are wondering if anyone helped me at work, or if any of the professionals wondered about my emotional well being. No, no one did, and I was okay. I didn’t have any fears of falling, but I did promise myself to be more careful. I felt that my fall was due to not paying attention, and to trying to put up my keys and cell phone at the same time as I was hurrying into the store. Later, my husband was horrified that I had not called him, not gone in the ambulance, had driven myself. But I felt capable. I never want attention when I’m hurt or sick and just hate the embarrassment of falling. And, I will admit… that I’ve fallen several times in the years since then. We moved across the country, and my new internist was very concerned about the falls I had while under his care. They were always when I was in a hurry, and I never broke any more bones, but I kept hitting my head and having huge bumps and then massive, slow healing bruises on my face. He wondered about spousal abuse (no) vision (no) balance (maybe) dizziness (no) drinking(no). He would examine my eyes and tap my knees and have me stand on one foot, walk across the room. He would sigh and sent me for a Cat scan, saying “I hate doing this again, but… we have to check for bleeding under your skull.” Never was any. I kept telling him, “my mind runs 100 mph. I’m always thinking about so many things even while I’m moving or doing tasks. I’m clumsy and awkward. I feel big in my space, even though I’m average size. I bump into things that are in my house that are always there. I don’t know what it is, I just need to pay better attention.” He is the one who diagnosed me with the bone thinning, which I still have but it’s not getting worse due to the extra Vitamin D he put me on, I guess.
    I started taking Zumba, and I think my balance improved. I didn’t have a fall for 3 years, but then I had a bad one. New house, slippery patio, at night, trying to get my cat back in the house from a cat fight, I stepped onto a stone flower bed and fell off of it onto the stone steps. I didn’t hit my head this time, but I had a wrist, arm, and leg injury… nothing required anything but just bandaging at home. Since then, five years ago, I have fallen one other time, this past summer, going up uneven concrete steps at a cabin, I fell forward and hit chin first. Again, big cut & bruising but no MD attention needed. I imagine I will fall again, but I am much more purposeful about anyplace I walk. I’m 67 & I’m not sitting around like a decrepit old lady. I hiked down into a canyon with my daughter and grandkids this past summer. As an additional note, my parents both fell and had some pretty nasty injuries as they aged. My mom passed at 93, my dad at 95. I started falling as early as my 20s, but never had a big injury until the shoulder.

  52. So interesting to read! I type this comment one-handedly from my non-dominant hand after suffering a comminuted fracture of my humerus myself. I was doing an obstacle course race and jumped (!) from a trampoline straight into a wooden wall. Originally, we thought it was simply dislocated (WOW relocating a shoulder hurts), but turns out I also broke my shoulder in two places. Good times.

    Anyway, so nice to hear others commiserating about the small things we took for granted, like washing our underarms. I have tried to explain to people that no, I am not in great pain, but it is very frustrating coming to work everyday after “sleeping” upright in the corner of my sectional (pretty sure I haven’t slept more than 2 hrs at a time in 18 days), only to have to dress in pants with elastic waistbands, baggy shirts, and slip on shoes. Not exactly fashionable! I appreciate the tip about the medicated powder btw, as the skin under my right arm has been so itchy. It has been even more challenging for me than others, I think, because I live alone…my biggest struggle has been figuring out what in the world to do with my hair on a daily basis!

    34 more days until I can drop the sling. Looking forward to a (slow) return to normal movement!

  53. Hi Yvonne, regarding the shaking, I experienced the same thing when returning my forearm to my side (imagine a bicep curl with no weights). It has gotten better and rarely happens now. My fall was 7 weeks ago.

    I have a question for the group. I’m wondering how long you felt pain? I fractured the head and neck of my shoulder (not a complete break) and the head of my shoulder is offset from the part it should fit into). I have a dull ache throughout the day and it’s worse at night when I try to get comfortable. My doctor won’t prescribe anything because I’m “outside the window for opioids”. I asked for a prescription of anything non-opioid and she told me to take ibuprofen, which I have been doing. Just curious how long everyone’s discomfort lasted? I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and it’s at a 4-5 during the day and close to a 7 at night.

    • Thanks for the reassurance about the shaking. Mine is getting less now but still bothers me from time to time. We are at about the same stage as I am eight weeks post fall now. I also get a dull ache in my arm during the day and at night but I find the more I exercise The better it’s getting. It hurts while I exercise but I think each day the pain is slightly less. I still have nerve pain in both my thighs which I’m sure is connected to my fall but nobody seems very interested in that and just says it will go away in time.I’m visiting a chiropractor and a reflexologist and I’m hoping it will improve because now it’s worse than my home at night. It’s no fun is it?

  54. Hi, I just broke my shoulder 2 days ago. Doc says looks clean with no separation but getting MRI tomorrow to determine extent and treatment. I fell playing pickle ball. Sigh. Petty banged up and lots of pain. Just wanted to say hi and commiserate with you all!

  55. On a late evening in early August, I fell and suffered a non-displaced avulsion fracture of the greater tuberosity along with a black eye and a subconjunctival hemorrhage of one eye. Why did I fall? I don’t know. One minute I was standing and then next I was on the floor with my arm doubled under me and the left side of my face flat to the floor. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis earlier this year. An increase from the 4 years previous osteopenia. I was placed on Prolia therapy and had my first injection 5 months prior to the fall. I received expert treatment of the fracture in the ER and was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. No surgery needed. Will start PT in another week.
    A month after the fall, I saw a specialist for a chronic lung and systemic condition. She was visibly upset by the lack of ER attention to the why of the fall. No heart or head evaluation and no follow-up to check into possible factors.
    So now, here I am with a fear of falling and I am, as you say, reliving the fall & imaging how other falls might happen. I am also wondering whether or not I will be able to use my arm well enough to drive again. Driving is important as I live 30 minutes from medical care and sometimes need to take a family member to their medical appointments.

  56. Ohmygoodness! I am not the only person this has happened to! I tripped over uneven concrete and displaced mid-humerus and completely smashed my humerus head and broke my elbow in 2 places. I have had one surgery and am now plated and screwed together, but the head did not mend and it is in necrosis now. I have been ‘growing good bone’ as my doc states for just over a year now, he wanted all of the breaks to be completely healed before progressing. In the next couple of months I will have a total reverse shoulder replacement. I am looking forward to not hurting so much. I don’t complain, but golly… owie.

    I laughed so hard about the washing of the armpit. I use a medicated powder now too there because it is skin on skin so much. Where the bra is concerned I can place it out behind me, and gently grab both ends (one at a time) and hook in the front and then shimmy it around and get it on…. or most days, I just say the heck with it and go free. I bought an electric shaver to do my good armpit but hubby says I look like a contortionist. I am okay with that. My toughest challenge has been two-fold; 1. getting my britches up on the injured side 2. slicing anything. Life will go on. I will heal. I will be stronger.

    • Oh my goodness, what an ordeal. I’m so sorry. I hear ya on getting britches up, I’ve only worn elastic waisted or no waist items since this happened. Probably TMI but I only put on undies if I’m wearing a dress otherwise it’s too much work to pull up two items. This has been a very humbling experience, I’m fiercely independent so having to have someone do things for me is torture. Wishing you well on the surgery and subsequent healing.

    • Update! on Nov 12th I had the reverse total shoulder replacement. I will not lie.. I was in pain because they could not do a block on me. But healing has been so much easier this time. I think because my whole side is not broken like it was the initial fall. IBU 800’s every now and then and I am good. I have home health until I can either drive or raise my arm to 90 degrees. Nowhere near that yet, but I now only have the deltoid muscle to work with, all of my rotator cuffs were lost with the fall 17 months ago. The deltoid is a little stubborn, but my will is stronger than it. We saw some very good progess this past Friday, that wasn’t all passive movement. I know it will take a bit, but I’m not quitting. I want to be able to blow dry my hair again and put my makeup on with my dominant hand. (the eyeliner looks much better then. haha)

      Props to all of you people going through this. Hang in there! It can be a long haul for some, but just keep pushing on. It’s been 17 months since I tripped over that stupid concrete. We can do this!!

    • I love your positive attitude Christine! I can so relate to the washing/shaving of my right arm pit, struggling to put my bra on (but at least got a few front closing ones quickly on Amazon) and living in sweats and leggings for months. I also remember how happy I was when I could finally brush my teeth and put mascara on with my dominant hand. I kept a journal of my progress.

  57. Hi Shannon, yes the armpit washing is a challenge, but your range of motion will improve. I still have to lean forward in the shower, dangle my bad arm forward and use a washcloth to clean myself. In the beginning I could only move m arm about 2 inches from my side. Now it’s only slightly better at about 3 inches (I think I’m being generous with that!). As for the bras, try front closure ones – they are doable by yourself! I was wearing my husband’s button down dress shirts, but they’re long sleeved and really hot, especially in Tucson. I bought some men’s (couldn’t find ladies shirts large enough to accommodate my arm in a sling) short sleeved button down shirts, but am now able to wear slightly oversized ladies cotton T-shirt’s.

    • Hi Jennifer, I hope your follow up appointment went well. I made a decision about four days into this journey that pain was going to be my new best friend and I needed to come to terms with that…and take joy in the small victories. I look forward to a bit more ability to move the arm from the body and know that it will come with time. I bought a sleeveless button up shirt today and it was very easy for me to get on, I live in Albuquerque so it’s still quite warm, I’m optimistic that ROM will be better before winter settles in (if not I’m prepared to drape with a sweater over the sleeveless shirt with sling underneath. I really like the idea of the app Dr. Salber is considering development of. I’ve not gotten much guidance from the medical folks I’ve been in contact with, only tip I got was sleep in a recliner and make sure that I remove the sling and move the elbow joint (that was stressed by two different PAs I’ve seen). I asked for do’s and don’ts and was pretty much told just keep doing what your doing, as healing was seen on the two week follow-up x-rays. I wish you well on your healing journey.

    • https://thedoctorweighsin.com/wp-content/uploads/Yvonne-Image.jpg

      This is a link to a photo that has been kindly uploaded for me. Its of my arm a few days after I got my greater tuberosity fracture. I find this forum incredibly interesting. I’m from the UK and haven’t found a forum of people who have done similar things to me. I find that my progress matches a lot of what contributors on here I’ve been saying. I broke my right shoulder and I’m right-handed so it’s been very difficult to do everything with my left. I have also suffered insomnia and a fear of falling again. I guess that’s pretty normal as nobody wants to do the same thing again. I was asked to join a study at my hospital which is looking at why elderly people fall. I think they are trying to understand what happens and why although of course it isn’t only elderly people who fall. I must admit I resent being called geriatric but I guess at 77 I am. I am determined to get movement back and I’m doing my exercises regularly. It’s encouraging to hear that this has helped others. I was also worried as to whether my shoulder was being kept still enough with just the small sling I was given But it seems that I haven’t done any further damage and my last x-ray showed that things are healing nicely. I shall keep reading posts on here with great interest

      • Oh my goodness Yvonne, that bruising is spectacular. I was fortunate to have very minimal bruising, with the exception of where they blew some veins trying to get the IV placed at the ER. As you did, I also broke my dominant arm so pretty much everything is a challenge but I’ve become very creative. I wish you well on your healing journey.

        • Avatar It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does I have to physically stop it. I have been told it’s due to weak muscles but wondered if anyone else had the same problem?

          I can’t see how to start a new post on here so I’m continuing with a reply. Does anyone else have the problem of their arm shaking? I am getting more movement back in my arm now and I’m following my exercises as prescribed by my therapist but I suffer from my arm shaking. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does I have to physically stop it. I have been told it’s due to weak muscles but wondered if anyone else had the same problem?

          • Yes I do but I’m only 4 weeks in, they say it’s the muscle with me which I find really odd when my muscles used to use 8kg weights at the gym. How does the muscle go from that to this so quickly ?

  58. Hi everyone. I stupidly fell over my dishwasher 20th July 2017. My job meant that I would not be home until at least 21.00 hrs. I relaxed and got chatting to a friend. Went to bed around 11.30 pm. Was chatting to a pal and and was bringing a glass of water to bed. Forgot that I’d left the dishwasher door open and tripped over it in the dark. I hit the kitchen wall and landed on the kitchen floor just missing the table.
    Family heard my screams. Brought into hospital midnight. Was given painkillers. Eventually a CT scan which showed up a dislocated and badly smashed up top of humerus.
    Had surgery and 3 pins inserted after 36 hours in pain.
    A year later pins removed and a clean out done in the hope I might have more movement. No difference. MRI scan Nov’19 showed avascular necrosis. July ’19
    discharged from hospital physio as I’ve plateaued. No change in 3 months.
    Who would have thought a silly fall would have such a profound affect on my life.

  59. Hi Shannon, I agree that this forum is a godsend after something like this happens. I found great comfort in the comments people posted. It’s been 4 weeks and 3 days since my fall and I can tell you it will get better. I have my second follow up ortho appointment today and I’m really hoping there’s been no shift and surgery is not needed. I can relate to your sleeping woes. I don’t have a recliner so I’ve been getting spotty sleep on my back in bed. A huge victory for me has been the ability to wear a non-button down shirt (previously all I could get on were oversized, men’s short sleeved button down shirts – not flattering at all)! I am close to your age 47) and my break is to the humeral head and neck, so raising my arm over my head is impossible. I guess I just want you to know that you’re not alone and you will get through it, even though it might not seem that way. Take care.

    • Jennifer, thanks for your reply and encouragement. I’m so sorry you don’t have a recliner, it was one of the first things the PA discussed with me was sleeping in a reclined position. I’m 2.5 weeks out from injury and I had very serious doubts leaving the doctors office after initial consultation but after the first full week, things became more manageable. I can’t move my upper arm more than maybe 1/2″ away from my body but have managed to put on sleeveless shirts, it’s a bit of an ordeal but as long as I go slow I eventually get it figured out. I’ve not worn a bra since the day I went to urgent care, not sure why I was so worried about it…as soon as I went back to x-ray I had to remove it. LOL I had no button up shirts and all of my husbands are long sleeved dress shirts for work. But here is the one thing that I’m still struggling with (other than sleep), washing my armpit on the fractured side. I’ve been dangling my arm and leaning slightly so gravity will pull the arm away from my body, then taking a washcloth and doing my best to scrub, then rinse with a hand held wand. I only had stick deodorant (until today) but I did figure out that I could dry the pit with a folded paper towel, then use an other one and wipe the deodorant on it and much like the washing dangle my arm and wipe the deodorant on. Who would have know it could take so much energy just do shower and get dressed.

  60. Wow, this has been the most helpful and encouraging I’ve read since I stumbled over some landscape rocks in the back yard 17 days ago. To make a long story short I waited over 12 hours before going to urgent care, even though it was the worst pain in my entire life, all 49 years! Turns out I have a 3-part fracture of the greater tuberous and surgical neck (minimally displaced). At this point the pain is tolerable with no meds, for the last week or more. I am obsessed about how I could have done such a thing and freaked out about doing it again. We have a two week trip to Cabo that we were supposed to leave on tomorrow but were able to push by a week. The PA says I can heal just as well in Mexico as I can in New Mexico. I’m worried about sleep, I’ve been in the recliner since this happened and I don’t think our resort room will have a recliner. But I’m devising a plan for a pillow wall to keep me from rolling. It’s already something that scares me just in the recliner, I woke myself up the other night with the sensation that I was rolling over. I got NO sleep after that. Since then I’ve been getting around 5 hours a night (off and on) and that’s not me. I really appreciated this article, it’s so nice to hear first hand from a doctor thats been through it.

  61. Hey Jennifer, hang in there! It is now 7 weeks since my fall. My arm still looks a little brownish, from the bruising or fake tan I put on it😉. My arm looked worse than Patricia’s. I wish I had iced it but the Irish nurse said it would not help. While you are going through this it seems it will never be over, but it will! I was able to sleep with the help of pain meds on the sectional couch. I am thinking that sleeping meds should also be prescribed. It sounds like insomnia is a common problem. So I am finally feeling better, sling is gone. I went to an art museum yesterday and walked around with some discomfort so I took Tylenol and felt better. I also had hip and pubis bone hairline fractures so walking was difficult in the beginning. My fear of falling is passing as well. I am doing PT at home and office visits, it’s really important if you want your full range of motion back. You are a lot younger that me so I think you will heal a lot faster. Wish I had the app when I was first injured. I went through all the emotions and thoughts you are having again I will say you will get better!

    • Cathy, THANK YOU for taking the time to reach out to me. Knowing you and others felt the same way I do now and triumphed over it is a great comfort and a reassurance that it will get better 🙂. I continue to meditate and find the pain an interesting distraction. I’m thinking of taking an Advil pm before bed to help me sleep. My most pain free moments are when I’m up and my arm can hang in the sling. The nighttime is the worst! I have so many questions for my ortho doc next week. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience. It feels better knowing I’m not alone.

  62. I’m at the very early stages of recovering from a “comminuted impacted fracture of
    the anatomic head of the humerus with ossific fragments within the soft tissue lateral to the humeral head, the lesser tuberosity also appears to be 1.7 cm displaced, glenoid fossa appears to be involved as well” (this is from my ER record). I fell on 8/18/19 and wasn’t given much information when leaving the ER. I have a cuff and collar and wear it at all times except when in the shower. I meet with my ortho doc on 9/4/19. I’m concerned about the swelling and bruising and am wondering what I should be doing to help alleviate both. Pain is manageable during the day but sleeping is a challenge. Mostly I’m feeling fearful and insecure if my bruising is normal (it looks very similar to the photo in the article). Any encouragement or guidance would be appreciated.

    • As you saw, my bruising was spectacular. And, I was swollen. It can take quite a long time to resolve because all that mess has to be cleaned up by macrophages, a type of white blood cell. Don’t worry the bruising and swelling commonly occur after fractures – even small ones like broken toes. There are things to do reduce swelling (such as elevating the extremity) but this SHOULD NOT BE DONE because you are in a sling or other device to immobilize the arm. Don’t worry. It will resolve over time. Yes, sleeping is hard during the early days after this type of fracture. It is simply hard to get comfortable. Insomnia can also occur as a part of the emotional reaction to the fall/fracture. Other emotional responses are fear of falling, feeling frail, anxiety, and instability. These too will resolve with time and some effort on your part. After some experimentation, I found that the best thing for my emotional reactions, including insomnia, was attending meditation sessions at a local Zen center. I wish you the best for a smooth recovery. There are lots of folks who have written here about their experiences. Please to come back over here any time you need support.

    • I have a greater tuberosity fracture which happened on the 12th of August. Yesterday my consultant through my sling away and told me to try to use my arm as normal as possible. I have been doing simple pendulum exercises for the last two weeks and start my physical therapy tomorrow. My arm aches dreadfully today without the support of the sling. My bruising was incredible and I was just about to go on holiday to Italy. I live in the UK so it wasn’t so far and my family was with me. We stayed with very good friends so I had lots of help. I just want to get back to driving my car but at the moment can’t see that happening very soon. This forum is very helpful. I’d love to add a photo of my bruising as it might help others to realize that in a few weeks it can disappear But I can’t see how to add a photo. Can anyone tell me how to do that? I’m 77 by the way and usually very active. This is the first bone I’ve ever broken And I did it falling over my back step into my kitchen-the steps only been there for the last 50 years.

  63. I have read through the beyond the cast challenge. It is very comprehensive. Kaiser would be wise to have a program like this. I also read all the comments. I found the question about data on future falls being caused by Fear of Falling or PTSD ( sounds more ominous), interesting. It makes sense that FOF would cause future falls by creating a fear of walking thus never getting muscle mass back. I wonder if there is data out there.

  64. Thank you for this! At the ends of May 2019, I fell to my knees with my hand stuck in a door handle. Anterior dislocation and displaced greater tuberosity fracture. The doc in ER managed a closed reduction, which included moving the fracture into place. I had to have the arm immobilized for 7 weeks to make sure the fractured bone remained in place. When I was finally allowed to “move” my arm, it felt like this dead weight that wasn’t a part of my body.
    I have been having physio and going to a pool to help mobilize my arm. Function is slowly coming back, but still can’t do much with it. The one thing that really bothers me is the fatigue that results from the pain and limited mobility. Not to mention the swelling!
    It has been such a disabling injury and it is hard not to get frustrated and sad, especially knowing how long it will be until I’m normal again.
    When it first happened, I behaved much like you. I an fiercely independent and relatively young at 45. There was something wrong, but it couldn’t be that bad – so I drove myself to the hospital.
    Little did I know….
    I keep doing everything physio tells me and hope it will be like nothing ever happened by this time next year.

    • I am so sorry about your fall and dislocation shoulder. I’m impressed that the Emergency Physician was able to do a closed reduction. The one thing I can say about my own recovery is that being fanatically diligent about doing your range of motion exercises at home for a prolonged period of time is key to getting back your mobility. I did them for well over a year with excellent results. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

  65. Thank you for the reassurance about travel. I definitely do not want to give it up. We are starting to make plans for our next trip, to Southeast Asia. My husband says we will keep going as long as we can. What did they do for your neuro work up? I too worked for Kaiser and while I was there “hall wall medicine” was practiced a lot. It’s a little more difficult now to get referrals. Does anyone not have trouble with range of motion after these fractures? Thank you again

    • Neuro w/u:

      A neurology consult with detailed neuro exam, nerve conduction study and EMG – all normal.

      Re ROM. The key is physical therapy that focuses on teaching you a home program, not just in office PT. I did my ROM exercises faithfully for well over a year and now have an almost full ROM. I have no functional limitations.

      After my wrist fracture an immobilization I requested a PT referral even though it was suggested that it wasn’t needed. I asked the PT to focus not just wrist ROM (not really too limited by the fracture), but building up the strength of the small muscles in the hands and fingers.

      We loved SEA visiting all of the countries over the course of several visits. Don’t miss Laos (Luang Probang) and the far north and far south of Vietnam.

  66. Six weeks ago I was on a walking tour in Galway Ireland and suddenly found my self on the ground. I think I slipped on the wet cobblestones, but I am not completely sure. I have fallen in the past and always knew what I tripped on. There never was any discussion about why I may have fallen. Fractured surgical head of humerus, mildly displaced. I am 72 and have had osteoporosis for years but also had fear of the treatment side effects. With my fall I had pain in my hip/thigh after a ct scan and mri it was discovered that I had hairline fractures in my hip as well. My care became focused on the thigh pain and my rt arm was left in the Irish immobilizer. Providers just kept saying it was fine. I think someone should have told me to take it off and move my elbow because when it was weaned off my elbow was moderately frozen. I am doing PT now and getting my full range of motion back. Insomnia, I would take norco at night with Ativan and sleep thru the night on the sectional couch. I am interested in FOF, my fall was the 42nd day of a 43 day Europe trip. My husband and I love traveling and have been doing long vacations the past few years. My 36 year old son said we were pushing ourselves too much. I think I was in better shape after walking so much for 42 days. Last night we walked a few blocks downtown, every crack in the side walk was magnified in my mind. I definitely have fear of falling. Also fear of future fractures. I took Reclast 3 days ago and had horrible flu like symptoms afterwards, feeling better now. I am glad to hear the fear of falling will pass. Thank you for your interest in this subject I wish I had found your site sooner.

    • Hi Cathy, I am so sorry about your fractures, but I am glad that you are on the mend now. My adult son said to me a few years ago, why don’t you slow down, quit working, maybe just putter in the garden. Instead, my husband and I amped it up. Last year we had the busiest travel year of our long life of travel – despite having osteoporosis and two fragility fractures (saw Sri Lanka in December wearing a splint for a wrist fracture – definitely doable. Travel is good medicine!

  67. Very informative article especially as it extends into the aftermath of a fall. Thank you. My fall brought on feelings of fragility, inbalance and the FOF. I did not break or fracture any bones when I fell, the fall was due to my right knee not supporting me and needing replacement. I suffered from the knee due to bone-on-bone and arthritis. It was when I fell on two separate occasions that I decided to take my ortho’s advice and have the knee replaced. I thought for sure that once the knee healed I would regain my balance, return to my original gait with no more limping or clumsiness. The surgery wasn’t the success I had hoped for. I still limp slightly – still have some knee pain and an internal clicking every time I bend the knee. The worst consequence is the fear of falling – I go down all stair or curbs planting my foot parallel to the curb. Same thing going up. I did PT and water walking for a while but when forced to stop when another major medical issue put me in the hospital. I am hoping now to resume water walking and some gym workouts soon. My fear of falling was never addressed by with my surgeon or PT during my recoup time. I have that fear today and don’t know as I will ever overcome it. It would seem that information on this possible post-surgery circumstance would be part of an “early pre-surgery” warning” Treating the whole body during any major surgery (or rehabilitation) should be the norm, not the exception.I am a 72 YO female who while not a workout fanatic, but very active. I do travel, love to walk, visit museums, sightseeing and love the outdoors.

  68. Thank you for your article. As a fellow fast walker, I tripped while heading off with my rucksack for a 2-day work trip.
    Greater Tuberosity fracture. Back at work and using sling for protection on public transport, but about to start going out without it.
    I am very active,and several people have asked ‘But how did that happen?’ Now I can say it can happen to the best of us. Thanks to you and your respondents.
    Now doing PT and reassured that I’m not the only one who found it hard to move my arm away from my body.

  69. Pat, thank you so very much for your blog, advice, and encouragement! Tomorrow will be three weeks since I fell, hard, face first while running (literally) to catch the FedEx man at my front door so he’d set a very heavy boxes inside instead of on the porch in the rain. The toe of a sturdy rubber soled German slipper caught firmly on the hardwood and down I went as I reached out for the front door handle. My left shoulder and upper arm, right wrist and forearm took my full weight at a run. I’m 71 and have never broken anything: what an eye-opener! The shoulder pain was excruciating, a wave of nausea came over me, I somehow realized I was alone and needed to try to open the door and ask the delivery man to stay a few minutes. He was a true angel, took off his shoes and said he’d stay as long as I needed him. He took my right forearm and helped me to a sit, when asked, then in a few minutes he mostly lifted me to the nearby couch, got water and naproxen, my glasses and cell phone. He even left his phone number and name, said he’d be in my area all afternoon! Next day I called his supervisor, who has entered him in a national award program for exemplary customer service. So happy for him! I called 911 since I couldn’t move w/o waves of incredible pain in my left shoulder. The hospital took X-rays and put on a firm, wrapped splint. It was a proximal humeral head fracture with three white lines radiating from the neck area, not displaced. Two days later at the ortho, they took off the splint, put on a sling and emphasized it was only for comfort and I did not have to wear it. It wasn’t comfortable after a while so after a couple days, I went without it during the day. The tramadol gave me nausea, so I used naproxen, double dose. Not sure it helped much, though. Lots of zinging pain in the shoulder if any muscles in my body happened to flinch. I’m concerned that I was not told to keep it immobile, as everyone else has been told. At three weeks it still hurts to try to use the left arm for anything. I’ve moved wrist, elbow regularly just in the course of the day, fingers typing. Not sure why ortho didn’t give me the wrist and neck sling support I’ve read is the best for healing. I chose this ortho due to his excellent reputation in our Solano Co. area. Tomorrow I’ll see on the X-ray how it’s healing. A little worried it should be hurting less by now. Thank you again for this wonderful resource you’ve provided!

    • What a story. So glad the UPS man stepped up to the plate. He deserves that award. I learned when I was looking for answers about treatment for my shoulder fracture that treatment recommendations are all over the place.

      Many orthos recommend surgery but my ortho who was willing to spend quite a bit of time with me addressing my concerns. He pointed out that the best studies show that most (but not all) times surgery is not needed. The ortho literature was not that impressive with many just being small studies not well designed. There was one large study from the UK that supported what he said.

      I haven’t heard of people being treated without a sling, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the outcomes were the same with and without a sling. It’s primary function may well be comfort.

      I did have a second fracture last year. This time my right wrist (tripped over my big black lab in the dark). Ortho wanted to cast it, but I was going to Sri Lanka for a month a few days later. So I said, just give me a velcro splint instead. I didn’t want to have to deal with showering with a cast when I was in the developing world. When I returned to the states after 4 weeks, the fracture had healed nicely.

      It makes you wonder how much of routine fracture care is science and how much is just the way its always done.

      BTW, I am wondering, did you experience any fear of falling, insomnia, reliving the fall or other types of symptoms after your fall?

      Pat

      • As far as insomnia, I think it was a combination of things that made sleeping not easy. For four nights I stayed on the couch, sitting scrunched on my right side with pillows around me for the first two, then laying mostly down on right side on pile of pillows at head and shoulders. I was terrified to bump shoulder and severe pain with any movement. Night five I made a small space for the right side of my body in bed with a fat pillow behind me, two firm ones under head/rt. shoulder, one to rest left wrist on by my stomach. This allowed several consecutive hours of sleep once shoulder pain subsided. My neck and back hurt constantly from the unusual positions and weight of the sling (wore it to bed 2+ weeks). Still not sleeping a full night, but stay in bed and try to go back to sleep when I wake in the night.

        The fear of falling is strange. Yes, it almost seems I’m less steady due to placing each foot carefully as I go down the few low, wide steps on my deck I’ve zipped up and down w/o thought for 20 years! It feels unnatural, which I think makes one less steady on their feet. I’m a fast walker, tend to run just to feel the good feel of moving vigorously when getting up to tend laundry of go to the kitchen. I walk rapidly on the sidewalk. This is going to be my biggest challenge, I think: changing lifelong behavior to try to ensure I don’t fall again.

        That the fall happened so quickly was unusual for me, as when I trip I’m able to re-place my feet to catch myself. I do tons of heavy yard work, am at a good weight for my 5’7″ frame, and am more active than most of my high school friends on Facebook. But, I was just diagnosed with osteoporosis on the DEXA scan I’d been putting off having. Very frustrating for a 30+ year pescatarian/vegetarian eating a very healthy diet!

        What did your doctors say about driving? Medical advice I read said not for two months. My ortho was rather vague, but I drive a full sized pickup truck and don’t want to take chances. I live alone now, though, and it’s become terribly inconvenient. My in-town kids are already over committed with their careers and children’s activities. I’m always the one helping out to make things work, not the one needing help. One of the wonderful EMTs who came to get me actually volunteered when I worried about my granddaughter that his wife works at gd’s high school and he would ask her to tell my granddaughter I was at the hospital and wouldn’t be there for her that afternoon when she got out of school.

        One more question as far as the pain you experienced. How long would you say it continued to hurt to use the arm with the broken shoulder? Pain is exhausting.

        Chuckled at your comment that maybe ortho care for shoulder fractures (possibly other fractures as well) is done just because it’s always been done that way.

        Your decision on treatment for your wrist before Sri Lanka shows it is a bit of a guess for the docs to know just what each injury needs for treatment. I’m glad it healed well. BTW, what were you doing that broke the wrist?

        Kay

        • So a few things. The pain will go away. I can’t remember exactly how long it took for my shoulder pain. But I can tell you that now I am completely pain-free and have an almost normal range of motion. Be sure to ask your doctor for a PT referral. I saw a PT who only did shoulders. She gave me a home program that consisted of many different range-of-motion exercises. I did them faithfully for a bit more than a year. This, in my opinion, is THE most important thing that you can do to get back to normal.

          The fear of falling thing is weird. And doctors don’t tend to bring it up. I was just like you. Fast walker, going up and down stairs to my office and bedroom with complete ease. During the time I had the FoF, I felt like I was a little old lady – watching every step. It did finally fade away – but it took a fair amount of time – perhaps 12-24 months. My gait is now normal.

          There are a few things I did change in my life. I now wear real shoes instead of the slip-on sandals that contributed to my fall. I also take QiGong which helps with balance. Tai Chi is very good for this as well.

          I am very interested in this complication of falls and have submitted a research idea to IDEO. Take a look. Perhaps you might like to jump in on the conversation. Here’s a link: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/healthy-bones/ideas/identify-and-treat-ptsd-like-symptoms-after-the-first-fall-fracture?utm_campaign=healthy-bones_Challenge_ideas_FE&utm_source=contribution-commented&utm_medium=platform-email&utm_content=normal&utm_term=290076#c-b266980e7cc7ed228ea1dce7e463f906

          • I’m a very faithful exerciser too, Pat, so the PT is second nature for me. They have good connections for that here at North Bay or Sutter Health, where I usually go for medical care. About the driving, how long before your drove? Afraid of rebreaking the shoulder if I moved suddenly, etc.. I’ll look at that web site. Thanks!

  70. wow, just discovered this. Great information, only 2 weeks ago I fell of a horse during my lesson, he was bigger than my usual lesson horse. Felt myself falling, tried to tuck and roll, but knew as soon as i had landed something was wrong. Felt like my arm was asleep,taken to ED, given IV morphine. Fractured proximal humerus, and ribs. still very sore, arm in sling. Treating conservatively. So far so good, have had heaps xrays and CT scan.
    I work as a clinical nurse, off work for 10 weeks at least. Frustrating that I cannot ride, run, do all usual things. Shoulder aches heaps, but rib pain is worse I would say. And sleep, manage a few hours before I wake up in pain, both shoulder and back.
    Certainly an experience I dont want to repeat.

    • I forgot to add that I am 63, still very active – or was till this happened.
      I will get back to riding, running, gym but its going to take a while I am a work in progress.

    • I am sorry about your fall and fracture. It is such a shock when something like this happens. I hope you have a smooth recovery. BTW, the most important thing you can do to get back a full range of motion if really good PT (not just a pendulum swing) that you do fully and faithfully. I did mine for more than a year. Good luck!

      • Thank you. yes its 3 weeks tomorrow since accident. I have already linked with PT for assessment next week, and planning to do hydrotherapy, then later back to gym. I need to be able to ride again, as well as back at gym. Running, obedience and agility with my dog.
        I am determined this is going to happen, I know its a long haul. But as they say “üse it or lose it” so I aiming for 100% recovery and giving my self time to do this. :)

        • One of the best range of motion exercises that I did was to hold a long wrapping paper roll in both hands while lying face up on the ground. I then made an arc with my arms each time trying to get the paper roll closer and closer to the ground. I eventually could easily get it all the way down, but continued doing this for more than a year. easy to do at home.

  71. OMG! Thank you so much for addressing this! I’m 59 and 21/2 weeks ago I tripped on a kitchen rug and went down HARD! I have four fractures in my shoulder. The day after my fall I saw an ortho dr who took additional x-rays and said to continue to keep my left arm immobilized and it would heal on its own. A week and a half later he wanted more x-rays and is now referring me to a shoulder specialist for surgery. He told me it would be a decision between a total shoulder replacement or “putting humpty-dumpty back together again.” I don’t understand how it goes from immobilization and rest to a possible shoulder replacement! I’m self employed and haven’t been able to work since my fall. I’m looking at what I can start selling in my house to make ends meet and now I’m facing potential surgery with its lengthy recovery. I have been doing research online but I’m more confused than ever. I don’t even know what I don’t know. Also, I’m scared to death of falling again! I envision myself falling again, I nearly refuse to go up or down a stairway and when I do walk I keep my eyes glued to the ground. Will this go away? What should I ask the surgeon? HELP! I’m in full panic mode!

    • Hi Denise,

      I am so sorry about your broken shoulder. I am sure you are feeling like I did. What a shock? How did this happen? What does it mean? Will I ever get back to normal again?

      I am going to answer these questions based on my experience as someone who also tripped and broke a shoulder. I am not answering as a doctor. I am not qualified to address shoulder fractures and I do not give medical advice on this site.

      So here goes:

      I did a lot of googling after I broke my shoulder. It was disturbing to see the differences of opinion on how to treat different types of shoulder fractures, doctor to doctor, country to country.

      Basically, immobilization (sling) is a good first therapy until you see a specialist who will evaluate the details of your fracture and make recommendations. I thought I needed surgery until I read the medical literature and talked to a trusted orthopedic surgeon. He strongly recommended conservative therapy (immobilization and then PT) for me. My fracture was only 2 part with minimal displacement and no angulation.

      Your fracture sounds more complicated than mine – 4 part fracture. You don’t say anything about whether it is displaced, angulated, where the fractures are, etc. That is really not in my area of expertise to evaluate.

      But I am a big believer in getting as many expert opinions as it takes for you to be comfortable with the recommendations. However, this can be both expensive and confusing. You will have to decide how much advice you need before settling on a doctor that you trust.

      So, let’s talk about your fear of falling. This was the most surprising thing to me. I actually think I developed a mild PTSD and the fear of falling was just one symptom. The other was really bad insomnia.

      Let me reassure you, if you work at it both of these symptoms will go away.

      I spent weeks being afraid of going up and down stairs which was hard as both my bedroom and home office are up a flight of stairs. So I just accepted it as a reasonable defense mechanism on my part. I made it a point to watch my feet wherever I went, particularly up and down stairs.

      Things you can do to help yourself include
      -seeing a good PT for balance exercises,
      -taking balance classes (including Tai Chi or what I am doing now, QiGong).

      IT WILL TAKE TIME.

      Be patient and be good to yourself.

      You didn’t describe insomnia, but for me, it was a huge issue. I actually moved my bed into another room and cried at night when I couldn’t sleep. I tried melatonin – didn’t work. I went to a local meditation center – it helped a bit. I finally tried prescription sleeping pills which worked beautifully but were not a viable long-term solution. Little by little almost all of my symptoms (fear and insomnia) went away. Yours will too.

      I ended up tripping on my dog and fracturing my wrist a few months ago. It was interesting that although my fear of falling again reappeared – I think mainly because my wrist was in a splint instead of a cast because I was traveling. But that went away once I was out of the splint.

      Bottom line: After your shoulder is treated (sling or surgery), work really hard at the recommended physical therapy. Aim for a full range of motion. Keep on doing the PT for month and months after you are pain-free. I did my range of motion exercises for almost a year.

      Work on your balance. Keep on moving (swimming great). Get enough sleep.

      You will get back to normal.

      • Thank you so much for your thorough, articulate and kind response. I actually gasped out loud and my heart started racing when I read you had tripped and broken your wrist. I wish you a speedy recoery!

  72. Thank you for your stories. I’m on week 4 of a broken humorous right at the ball. The pain seems to be getting worse, which makes my fear of falling overwhelming. I’m 52 and like many of you having terrible insomnia. Just reading your stories made me feel better.

    • You are welcome, Pamela. I am glad all of the stories have helped you feel better. Two thoughts offered as a person who has been there (not as medical advice): 1. Keep on walking, watch where you put your feet do balance exercises (yoga or Tai Chi) and take a deep breath, the fear of falling will fade over time. 2. The insomnia was harder for me to conquer. I tried meditation (helped a bit), melatonin, benadryl, sleep tapes, etc. But for me what really helped was a short course of a medium acting (~5 hours) prescription sleeping pill. It let me experience what it felt like to wake up fully refreshed after weeks and weeks of fitful sleep and long days of feeling horrible. I am not advocating sleeping pills for anyone else. They certainly have their side effects (dependence being one of the most serious), but they helped me over a rough patch.

    • I’m a 67 yr old female and I fell 3 yrs ago and broke my upper humerus in 3 places. I had tripped on a curb, I put my left arm out to brace myself, my arm slid on wet pavement, almost did some muscle damage to my right leg. As I sat there in horrific pain a gentle man ask if I needed help and luckily I was about 50 feet away from a prompt care so he went in and got someone to help me. I sat in the waiting room for quit sometime and just cried, the pain was unbelievable and I know I had to be in shock. I got in the room they helped me get undressed for an cray, I don’t know what there issue was but they expected me to move my arm around like nothing was wrong and I finally told them they were pushing there luck and I was done. I couldn’t take pain meds cuz they make me sick. It’s been 3 yrs and I still have pain everyday, my shoulder will never be the same and it was was such a traumatic experience that I’m overly cautious about falling again.

  73. After caring for my sick husband for over 15 months, I had lost 40 pounds when he died. After 6 months of changing names on titles and other stressful tasks. I was headed to bed when I hit my toe on some object and was thrusted forward into the corner of a wall. I hit right side of face and shoulder and then totally spun around landing on hardwood floor. I hurt and was dazed. I just laid there trying to comprehend what happened. My right arm hurt but I could move fingers. I used my left arm to move my right arm over my chest. I searched around in near darkness and found a wide ribbon I had saved from Christmas. I used it to tie right arm to my neck. I was in food physical condition and scooted down hall to staircase and used rails to stand up. I called my daughter. It took her over an hour to get to me and I decided to just sleep. I thought may it was fractured but thought I would wait. Next day decided to go to ER. Yep, 3 fractures. A spiral fracture to upper humerous and fractures on both sides of humerus head. After 5 miserable weeks in sling I started using arm. No, I started to move it but I could hardly lift it. I had home therapy. BTW 80 years old and l live alone. I could lift 20 pounds and drag 30 pounds but now I couldn’t even reach a lightswitch. The worse part was not being able to cook decent meals. Now over a year and a half later I can do much more but I am always in pain. Sometimes a 2 level and sometimes an 8. Using a vacuum cleaner is torture. Even using a computer mouse is painful. So I am concerned that the pain will never stop. As for fear of falling, I was an ice skater and never feared falling and usually went with the fall. This made me fearful of falling. I was walking sort of fast when I fell. Now I walk slower. We use our arms to balance when we walk. So having an arm in sling changes our balance. While in sling we are less active and leg muscles get weaker as do other body muscles. I think PT should be a whole body activity. I had always done PT exercises for legs when I cared for my husband. I have resumed them. I also thing possibly being less mobile might do something to our inner ear balancing. My arm was black and blue from shoulder to my hand. My age and diabetes definitely had negative effect on my recovery.

  74. Thanks for your reply – 95% range of movement sounds like a great result. I’m definitely focusing on one day at a time & avoiding the worst case scenario/catastrophising, which would be terribly unhelpful. I’m expecting to begin physio in the next fortnight, so that’ll be a real positive step.
    Again, thanks for putting your story & analysis on the web.

  75. So interesting to come across this blog post. I fell a week ago running downhill on cobblestones, wearing hiking boots, something I’d done several times previously. Landed heavily on outstretched right (dominant) arm. Fractured humeral head, not displaced, in sling, expecting to begin physio in a fortnight assuming next xray is satisfactory. Painful & extremely inconvenient. I live with my parents in their 70s, dad v fit, mum quite advanced with Parkinson’s. So my inability to drive will impact seriously on all 3 of us. Dad & I usually share the care/ driving, so next few months is going to be tough.
    Also, I’m a keen outdoor hiker & gym fiend, at my best fitness level since childhood (I’m 46), so serious restrictions on my activity levels is already freaking me out. I can see my OCD has worsened considerably since the accident. I have a long history of depression & eating disorders too, so all those factors are cause for concern. But I do have some excellent longstanding friends, great neighbours & a close family, so I’m hoping to take this thing one day at a time.

    • Hi Kate, I am sorry to hear about your fall and fracture and definitely agree it is very inconvenient to have your arm in a sling. Once you are out of the sling, you will probably be recommended to have physical therapy to get back your range of motion – this is very important. I had a 2-part fracture of my humeral head/neck. I went to PT for a while and did all my home exercises, some of which I still do today – several years later. I have about 95% of my prior range of motion – a very good result. I also had a mild PTSD and terrible insomnia after the fall which is not uncommon. I went to our local zen center to get help meditating which helped with stress and with sleep. Glad to say, all’s back to normal now – except I do watch where I put my feet much more closely than I did before. Be patient with yourself. Recovery takes time. But I am confident that you will get there with the help of your health professionals, family, and friends. Best wishes.Pat

  76. It was interesting to read your report and I thought I’d explain what happened to me. 3 weeks ago I was out running with my husband when I tripped over a root sticking out of a concrete footpath unfortunately I fell forward on to my hands and have broken both shoulders the Dr’s felt sorry for me and have opperated on my right but left the other in a sling gradually I am regaining strength in both. I think I’m a bt of an experiment to see if the final outcome on both shoulders is the same!
    With regards
    Charlotte

  77. Hi Patricia, I appreciate you for sharing and I hope you are doing well.
    On November 28th 2015 while shopping at a local grocery store I fell into the the dairy case (cooler) and came within inches of hitting my face.
    It all happened because I am short and the chip dip was on the top rack and was not fronted so I knew that this was going to be challenging. I put my body as close to the rack as possible stood up on my tip toes and flung my right arm up to reach for the dip only to realize the rack was not locked in place! Everything happened so fast as I reached to the right to prevent my face from injury I grabbed the metal rack and felt something give way in my arm/shoulder. There was a man behind me trying to help, he grabbed my shirt combined with his help and me using every muscle in my right hand and arm saved me from a serious face plant. I felt my embarrassed afterwards and just wanted to leave the area. As I walked away my whole right arm, shoulder and hand felt like it was on fire. I did not know the extent of my injury for about 6 weeks. My doctor wanted to give it time to heal because he thought I had sprained my arm. I was in incredible pain for weeks, finally I had enough and went to see a two different surgeons. After a CT-scan I was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff. The hand surgeon diagnosed me with carpal tunnel and trigger finger. After all the test were in I was scheduled for hand surgery to fix my problems. He made two incisions on my hand and the shoulder surgeon repaired my arm and shoulder. When the shoulder surgeon opened up my arm he found that I had ripped 80% of my bicep off the bone. It’s been a year since the surgery and my shoulder seems better after the cortisone shot. I wish I had not gone through with the hand surgery.
    Ten days after my shoulder surgery I had a mini stroke. Also I lost three teeth from the tubing they put in my mouth. When woke up from surgery my partial plate was already back in my mouth. I’ve had several surgeries and not once did they put my partial plate in my mouth. I always put it in myself when they bring it to me.
    Thank you for letting me share. I don’t know what to make of all this!

  78. Your photo of the bruising and the x-ray of the fracture look just like mine now. I don’t have your knowledge, so, I am going in for the surgery tomorrow morning. The displacement is well over 5mm and that was the magic number for me to say plate and pin it. My neck popped and has ached since the fall, but, I didn’t mention it, since my shoulder was my main concern. I wonder what the treatment was for your neck.
    My fall was from misjudging my steps coming off a ladder. I was too eager to get cleaned up after successfully repairing a garage door opener. Age 51 years & 51 weeks.
    Hope you had a full recovery.
    I’m not sure how the PT will go on my arm, I tore the bicep many years ago, so, range of motion was already impaired, some.

  79. Thank you so much for this. I’m 11 days out from a shoulder fx incurred while ice skating. The fear of morbidity is far harder to cope with than the pain (I’m 60.) It’s my dominant arm and I fear being unable to draw or to swim, since like you The injury is to the tuberolosity area. I will see the orthopod tomorrow so I will hope get more info then.

    I’m going down stairs with my feet parallel to the tread instead of at right angles. in other words, I am turned so that I face the rail. I don’t advance to the next stair until both feet are on the ‘current’ stair, i.e I play ‘catch up.” If I cone out of this with reasonable ability I’m not givingup cycling but I have thought carefully and I can’t risk ice skating again, even thogh I love it – too easy for ice to be damaged (which caused my stumble and fall) or to be knocked down by overexcited youngsters, etc. Risk assessment is hard – where is the ‘sweet spot” between paranoia and carelessness. The stress is very real and I struggle to get enough sleep. I find sleeping in recliner awkward as it puts a lot of stress on the back for example.

    Nancy your story sent chills down my spine. I wish you and the author the best.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I think reactions like these are much more common than we have thought and are, I think, by and large, ignored by physicians. I know I didn’t pay much attention to these issues when I was in practice. I would love to hear from others, what is your experience with getting help with emotional issues after a significant health event?

      • Fell hiking in New Mexico 6 weeks ago. Fell on top of shoulder and crushed everything. Fear of falling is a real issue now. Out of sling, will have to have some surgery for impingement. Driving & using arm a bit, but the memory of the fall is a real nightmare. I won’t look at the X-rays. No one discussed anything about the fear. 3 days after my break I tripped on the concrete lip at the end of my garage where it meets the driveway. It was a miracle I didn’t fall. I came so close. Every night I dream about falling: off a bridge, off a mountain trail, off a ledge, out of a tree, off a bike, off a roof, off a cliff. I hate to go to bed.

        • I am sorry to hear about your fall and the fear of falling. The latter is quite common after falls. I had it. Every time I walked down the stairs from my office I could feel myself falling to the bottom. And whenever we went to the airport, I had to avoid the place where I fell.I also had terrible insomnia.It was a mild form of PTSD. It did eventually go away completely, and yours should too. One of the things I did that I think helped me was going group meditation once a week. I also saw a neurologist to be sure I didn’t have any gait issues that could have contributed to the fall, then I saw a PT who helped me both with shoulder mobility and balance. I also have a great massage therapist who has been working on my shoulder to keep it mobile. You will get better, it just takes time and a bit of work on your part. Let me know how it goes. Pat

  80. Absolutely believe in the fear fracture. Though I now almost 72, I can well remember being thrown from a horse and dragged by the stirrup until they could stop him… I was maybe 10? Fast forward to today, when my husband wants to put straps on the pedals of our recumbent bikes. All I can see ifps taking a fall and being unable to get my foot out of the strap. and I’m on a recumbent for fear of falling off a two wheeler.

  81. A year ago I had a fall off my bicycle at a young age of 59. Unfortunately fractured my pelvis bottom to top, and a femoral fracture, fortunately with little displacement.
    3 months in a wheel chair no weight bearing, after back to work and doing OK. Have been back out on my bike , but yes there is always that awareness of what another fall could do.

  82. Sorry we missed you here in Idaho. I hope you have since made your way to the South Fork.
    Several years ago, while on one of my horses, I took a fall. Broke my radius, ulna and the head of my humerus. I was in the Owyhee Mountains about 60 miles from the nearest hospital. Fortunately I was with a friend who is an ICU nurse ( I am also an RN). Getting down the mountainside with my friend leading both horses and holding onto my belt with one hand was painful, to say the least. I was unable to mount my horse as the movement caused my muscles to spasm and the humerus ends to grind. I knew if I got up there and passed out I would be in a real mess. It was my L arm broken and I needed to use it for balance while getting on my horse, couldn’t do it. All this on the side of a mountain trail.
    We managed to get to the horse trailer. She loaded the horses, I wedged myself in the truck seat so I could brace with my feet on the dash. By now every movement caused spasms in my deltoid and I got very light headed. Until we got to the paved road, I was in 8+ pain.
    Got to the ER, nauseated from pain. Don’t remember what meds I got but I sure did appreciate the pain relief. Demerol and Visteril I think. I was taken to the OR and a general anesthesia for the cast on the forearm. Woke up with a cast and a sling.
    I was 39 y.o. at the time and my deltoids were quite strong, the spasms were terrible for weeks. Ended up with my upper arm terribly swollen and bruised and a cast on my forearm. Arm in a sling for several weeks. Sternoclydomastoid (hope I spelled that right) very painful for weeks.
    I am 69 y.o. now, have about 90% ability to raise my L arm over my head.
    I imagined myself bullet proof up until this injury. When my arm had been in a sling and I had the cast on for about 2 1/2 weeks I couldn’t stand the inactivity and put my leg over my kid’s pony. I could make it up there with some difficulty and rode the 1/4 mile, bareback, to the mail box. That lovely pony made my day. His name was Buckshot and he was so patient and kind. He was humanely put down at age 31, several years later.
    I am still going at 69. I do have some PTSD, I think. It did not bother me for years, but now I have flashbacks of the injury. Now I have RA and Lupus and I know that I would be in a bad place if I were injured again. I still ride. I mostly drive a buggy, but injuries from those accidents are also terrible.
    Thanks for the discussion of the aftermath of these falls and fractures. Life is an interesting trail and an interesting trial.
    I live on a hay ranch in Owyhee County, Idaho. My friend, Margaret Cary comes to visit us here in the wilds of Idaho. Maybe you can come with her some time. Happy healing.
    and I am terrified of getting hurt again.

    • Hi Nancy, thank you for sharing your experience with a fall and fracture. I think fear of falling and PTSD are underreported and underappreciated. Hopefully we can change that by sharing our stories. Maggi has often told me how much fun she has visiting you on the hay ranch. Idaho is also underappreciated, but I selfishly hope it stays that way. Pat

    • Nancy, thank you for your post. As I read your post I found myself nodding in agreement as you were describing the pain and how you got help for your initial injury. I’m only 2 1/2 weeks out from a shattered shoulder but I’m scared witless of another fall! So glad to know there is life after this kind of injury because right now I find myself crying several times a day and struggling not to feel sorry for myself. Seems the only thing I can do well is eat and drink (neither one is an activity I need to do!). Thanks for posting.

  83. Thank you for sharing. As a middle-aged runner who falls occasionally on trails (but so far only ever with bruises and irritations), I fully get both why you need to figure out how it happened and how to overcome fear of it happening again.

    And thank you for your kind words about my employer’s SSF team.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery (and hope you get that rafting trip next summer)!

    • Thanks Murray. Please keep your bones strong so your falls only lead to bruises, not fractures!

      Re: the care at SSF. I didn’t have room to write about all of the great care I got including the Medical Assistant who wrapped me in warmed blankets so I wouldn’t get chilly as she irrigated my wound, the expert care of Emergency Physician Dr. Uli Chettipally and kindness of Dr. Sherry Reynolds the radiologist who read my x-rays. Care doesn’t get any better than what I had that night. Thank you Kaiser South San Francisco.

  84. Thank you for the wonderful essay, Pat. I’m curious to learn of your analysis of the precipitant for your fall. I concur that serious injury consequent to falling creates a type of PTSD–my tri-malleolar fx-dislocation in early middle-age certainly did.

    I’m glad to learn of your steady improvement/recovery. All good wishes for a rapid return to maximal function and activities. Regards./@sjdmd

    • Thanks, Steve. My recovery is going well. My range of motion back to about 90% and I am still in the early stages of PT. I would love to chat with you about your symptoms of PTSD post-fall. I suspect it may be a common, but perhaps unrecognized symptom. We all know that people with hip fractures often die soon after the event (within a year or two). I wonder, has anyone looked to see how much of that morbidity and mortality is related to self-restricted movement because of FOF (fear of falling) related to some variation of PTSD. Certainly an interesting and perhaps an important question – to me at least.

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