A proximal humerus fracture is a serious injury to the humerus bone in the shoulder joint. The humerus is one of the long bones of the arm. The distal, or bottom, end contributes to the elbow joint. The proximal, or top, end contributes to the shoulder joint. During a traumatic event, like a fall, any part of the humerus is susceptible to injury. Other bones, including the clavicle (collarbone) or scapula (shoulder blade), can also be injured. However, a fracture to the proximal humerus is especially concerning due to its location and proximity to other important structures, such as the rotator cuff muscles, the brachial plexus (a web of nerves from the neck that supplies the arm), and certain tissues within the shoulder joint capsule.

Causes of proximal humerus fracture

Fractures of the proximal humerus typically occur as the result of a trauma, such as a fall where the individual lands directly on the shoulder, a forceful collision, or a more complicated event, such as a car accident. Typically, the position of the arm and body at the time of the trauma will determine how the bone fractures. This fracture commonly occurs in elderly people whose bones have been weakened by osteoporosis.

Symptoms of proximal humerus fracture

An individual with a proximal humerus fracture may experience the following symptoms immediately following the injury:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Severely restricted movement of the shoulder
  • Numbness and tingling in the arm, forearm or hand
  • Deformity (an unusual appearance) of the upper arm