What is a fracture of the proximal humerus?

The bone between your shoulder and your elbow is the humerus. The shoulder joint is formed by the top of the humerus (the ball) and the shoulder blade bone (the socket). The top part of the humerus—the part closest to your shoulder—is called the “proximal” humerus (figure). Fractures of the proximal humerus occur when you fall on your arm, and are more common as you get older.

Signs and symptoms

A proximal humerus fracture causes pain in the shoulder. It limits your ability to move the arm. You might also feel movement of the bone fragments. A bruise and swelling usually spread down the arm within a few days.


Your doctor will perform x-rays to diagnose the fracture and help decide if surgery might help. When the fracture is far out of place, surgery is an option. Your doctor will examine you to be sure there is no nerve or vessel damage.


Figure: a fracture of the proximal humerus.