Broken/Fractured Scapula (Broken/Fractured Shoulder Blade)

A fractured scapula is a painful condition that occurs when the scapula, the triangular bone on the back of the shoulder, is broken. Learn more about fractured shoulder blade symptoms, treatment, and more from Georgia's shoulder experts.

What You Need To Know About A Fractured Scapula

What Is A Fractured Scapula?

The scapula, also known as the shoulder blade, is a large, flat, triangular bone located on either side of the back of the shoulder. The scapula's crucial function is to hold the shoulder socket in place, allowing free and easy joint movement.

A broken shoulder blade is a painful condition where the scapula is fractured, making it very difficult to carry out daily routines and activities. If you're suffering from a fractured shoulder blade, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens shoulder physician today.

What Causes A Broken Scapula?

A fractured scapula usually occurs because of severe trauma to the shoulder. Common causes of a broken scapula include auto accidents, falling on the shoulder, direct trauma from blunt objects, and other direct injuries.

The shoulder blade is protected by a complex system of muscles around it, which makes a broken scapula relatively uncommon. A fractured scapula makes up less than 1% of broken bones. Because this condition usually only occurs due to a traumatic accident, it is usually accompanied by other injuries to the chest, ribs, head, lungs, or spinal cord.

Fractured Scapula Symptoms

Symptoms of a scapula fracture include bruising, swelling, and severe pain when the arm is moved. If broken bone shifts out of place, it may push against the skin of the shoulder and form a bump. Other symptoms may include:

  • Limited range of motion

  • Skin abrasions and scrapes around the scapula

  • Inability to lift the arm

  • Deformity in the shoulder blade

  • Pain while breathing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Abdominal pain

  • Decreased sensation in the shoulder

How Is A Fractured Scapula Diagnosed?

Because a fractured scapula usually occurs due to a traumatic accident, it is not always possible to conduct a physical exam immediately. If possible, a physician will do the following to assess the damage:

  • Check the skin for open fractures or bone puncturing the skin

  • Evaluate discoloration, swelling, and tenderness in the area

  • Check the range of motion, if any exists

  • Look for other injuries

  • Examine the chest wall and clavicle

To fully understand the scope of the injury, a physician will order diagnostic imaging, which may include X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. This will help them understand the extent of the fractured scapula and diagnose other injuries.

Fractured Scapula Treatment

There are non-surgical and surgical methods to repair a broken shoulder blade, and treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. Broken scapula treatment includes:

Non-Surgical Treatment

Your doctor will place the arm in a sling or shoulder immobilizer, advise icing the area, and recommend pain medication like NSAIDs. Once you are done with the sling, physical therapy will be necessary to restore motion in the shoulder.

Surgical Treatment

Certain types of fractures will require surgery, especially if the injury was caused by a traumatic event. The bone fragments are repositioned during the procedure and reattached with metal screws and plates. The following fracture types will require surgical intervention:

  • Fractures of the glenoid articular surface, where the bone has been displaced

  • Fractures on the neck of the scapula, where the bone was angulated

  • Fractures of the acromion process, causing impingement in the shoulder

A fractured scapula is a very serious condition that needs immediate treatment. Schedule an appointment with a Resurgens shoulder physician today.

Virtual After-Hours Access

Resurgens Orthopaedics has partnered with the HURT! app to offer FREE virtual after-hours access to orthopedic specialists right when you need it.

Receive immediate guidance on your injury!