When a patient sustains a significant shoulder injury, the result is often a fracture or dislocation. When a doctor says that a bone is fractured, he or she means that the bone is broken. When the two bones of a joint are no longer in contact with one another, the joint is said to be dislocated. For example, when a shoulder joint is dislocated, the ball (humeral head) is no longer sitting in the socket (glenoid).
Fractures and dislocations of the shoulder and elbow are often a result of trauma. The treatment of choice for such injuries depends upon several factors such as which bones are involved, the amount of bone displacement, the amount of soft tissue trauma associated with the fracture, and whether or not the shoulder or elbow was dislocated during the injury. There are other things to consider when evaluating a patient with a fracture; a physician may recommend surgery to a young, robust patient with a proximal humerus fracture, while at the same time recommending conservative treatment in an arm sling to a frail, elderly patient who might not be healthy enough to survive that same surgery.