Glenoid Fracture Definition and Meaning

A break in the shoulder socket is called a glenoid fracture. It can have a negative impact on the overall stability of the shoulder.

What is a glenoid fracture?

A glenoid fracture is when the shoulder socket (glenoid) breaks. The shoulder socket has a direct influence on the function of the human shoulder. Because of this, a glenoid fracture often causes instability of the shoulder joint. The glenoid is longitudinally oval and belongs to the shoulder blade (scapula).

Together with the humeral head (humerus head), the shoulder socket forms the main shoulder joint. The shoulder pan is reminiscent of a small soup plate and is located on the side of the shoulder pan. The ball of the humeral head can be found in the curve of the shoulder socket plate.

Fractures of the shoulder socket can be divided into two types. These include a fracture of the leading edge of the glenoid, which is often associated with a dislocation of the shoulder, and a fracture of the entire shoulder socket. A fracture at the edge of the glenoid is also known as a Bankart fracture.


A glenoid fracture is usually caused by excessive force. A fracture of the acetabulum is almost always preceded by a dislocation of the shoulder, which results in bony tears in the joint capsule. In the event of a rupture of the edge of the acetabulum, the joint capsule and the joint lip (glenoid labrum) almost always tear. A simple fall on the shoulder is usually enough to trigger a pan rim break.

A full glenoid fracture, on the other hand, is usually due to a strong impact. This is mostly a traffic accident. As a result, accompanying injuries to the collarbone are often recorded. Arm plexus, cervical spine and rib cage can also be affected.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Both forms of glenoid fracture have in common that they cause significant pain in the affected person. This also applies to the smaller Bankart fractures, the extent of which is less pronounced, but which nevertheless have pronounced functional effects. The cartilaginous enlargement lips, which are firmly attached to the bone parts of the shoulder joint socket, can no longer perform their functions.

Because the shoulder joint dislocates easily as a result, it becomes markedly unstable. Complicated debris fractures are particularly painful. Therefore, the patients always take a completely relieving posture with them. Extensive movements are avoided. The range of movements is also significantly reduced.

Diagnosis & course

If a fracture of the shoulder socket is suspected, it is important to consult a doctor quickly. He first conducts a survey of the patient. He asks about the type of accident and how the pain and restricted mobility are noticeable. To be sure of a glenoid fracture, the doctor will do an x-ray of the shoulder.

In the case of complex fractures, advanced diagnostic procedures can also be used. These include computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If the bone fragments can be returned to their original position as part of a therapeutic treatment, the glenoid fracture usually takes a positive course. The chances of recovery are basically good.

In the case of severe accidents and injuries, however, extensive damage to the soft tissues is to be feared, which makes the healing process more difficult and time-consuming. Furthermore, if the shoulder socket fractures, there is a relatively high risk of developing osteoarthritis.

The course of the glenoid fracture is assessed as not good if no surgical intervention takes place. The Bankart fractures usually result in unstable shoulder joints, which often causes the shoulder to dislocate. Without therapy, complex fractures lead to a deformity, which in turn leads to a stiffening of the shoulder.


A glenoid fracture usually puts pressure on the entire shoulder. The patient experiences very severe pain, which can occur in the form of pain at rest or pressure pain. Pain at rest can also occur at night and lead to sleep problems. It is not uncommon for the person affected to be irritated by the pain and appear aggressive.

The glenoid fracture severely restricts movement. In most cases it is no longer possible to continue performing the normal function of the shoulder. Diagnosis is relatively easy and quick, so treatment can begin early. The severe pain can lead to psychological complaints and depression in many patients.

The glenoid fracture is treated with the help of a surgical procedure. This will restore the function of the shoulder and allow the person to move about normally. In most cases, sporting activities are also possible again after the operation. There are no particular complications.

However, it cannot be ruled out that, in severe cases, the affected person will continue to suffer from restricted mobility and may no longer be able to take part in any sporting activities. However, life expectancy is not limited by the glenoid fracture.

When should you go to the doctor?

If severe pain is noticed in the shoulder after an accident or a fall, a doctor must be consulted. The use of an analgesic medication should be discussed with a doctor so that undesirable side effects can be avoided. If the shoulder joint is visually abnormal, a doctor is required. If splinters of the bones or the shoulder joint are felt, the shoulder should be immobilized and a doctor should be consulted immediately.

In the event of changes in mobility, one-sided physical stress or poor posture, a doctor must be consulted. If a headache, insomnia, or muscle discomfort develops, medical attention is needed. Excessive shoulder instability is considered unusual and should be investigated and treated.

If the usual performance decreases due to the symptoms, a doctor’s visit is required. If bruises occur or discoloration of the skin is noticed, a doctor should be consulted. If the glenoid fracture is triggered by force from another person, the affected person should seek help.

Contact with aid organizations can be established through various state institutions or a doctor. Comprehensive physical and emotional care is also guaranteed. If the person concerned suffers from trauma due to the cause of the symptoms or if an anxiety disorder develops, a doctor should be consulted.

Treatment & Therapy

Surgery is usually essential for effective treatment of the glenoid fracture. This is the only way to restore full mobility of the shoulder.

The problem that the different glenoid fractures have in common is their direct impact on shoulder joint stability. The shoulder joint socket is significantly smaller than the humeral head. For this reason, the surrounding soft tissues, which are located on the edge of the shoulder socket, play an important role in the stability of the shoulder joint.

If the edge breaks off, the soft tissue complex is no longer able to carry out its tasks. The consequence of this is the instability of the entire shoulder. For this reason, surgical treatment is essential, especially for young patients who are physically active. As part of the surgical procedure, the surgeon brings the bone fragments that were displaced during the break back into their original position.

There they are fixed in order to be able to grow again. Various materials are used to carry out the fixation. This includes plates, wires, screws, or threads. Smaller Bankart fractures or marginal breaks are usually treated with arthroscopy (keyhole surgery). For this purpose, the surgeon has a special endoscope that has the shape of a narrow tube.

There is a small special camera on the front of the endoscope. With the help of a second tube, the surgeon moves special instruments that he needs for the procedure to the shoulder joint. With the help of the instruments, the displaced bone can be brought back to its original position. It is finally fixed there.

If the glenoid fracture is complicated, it must be treated with plates or screws. Arthroscopy can now also be performed with more modern methods.

Outlook & forecast

With fast and good medical care, the prognosis for a glenoid fracture is favorable. This applies in particular to a simple break that has not caused any further damage to the surrounding regions.

Most patients undergo surgery to support optimal healing. This is to ensure that the mobility of the shoulder is restored to the fullest possible extent after the end of the treatment. A recovery is usually given after several months. However, complete freedom from symptoms still takes some time afterwards.

Without medical care, permanent damage to the skeletal system can occur. The bones no longer grow together in the necessary way if they are not adequately fixed together. This significantly limits the mobility of the shoulder joint and can lead to permanent pain.

If the fracture is complicated, there is also a risk of persistent restricted mobility. This is especially the case if cartilage, soft tissue or other bone fragments were damaged in the break. The prognosis in these patients depends on the overall injury and must be assessed individually.

Although a simple fracture has a good chance of healing, it can lead to sequelae or illness as it progresses. The chronic disease of osteoarthritis is often diagnosed at a later point in time for those affected.


Avoiding a glenoid fracture is not easy as it is often caused by traffic accidents. It is also important to counteract situations that could lead to a fall on the shoulder.


In the case of a glenoid fracture, the options for follow-up care are very limited. The patient is therefore primarily dependent on direct medical treatment by a doctor in order to properly treat the disease and to prevent further complications. In most cases, the glenoid fracture is treated with surgery.

After such an operation, the person concerned has to take care of his body. Sports activities or other strenuous activities must therefore be avoided in any case. In general, those affected should rest and move as little as possible. Above all, the weakened part of the body should be spared.

After the procedure, physiotherapy measures are also very useful. Many of the exercises can be done in your own home, which may speed healing. As a rule, further regular examinations are necessary even after successful treatment in order to detect further damage at an early stage.

The glenoid fracture does not reduce life expectancy for those affected. In general, a healthy lifestyle also has a positive effect on the further course of this disease. The surgical procedure is usually not associated with any particular complications.

You can do that yourself

If a glenoid fracture is suspected, a doctor should be consulted first. Various self-help measures can be taken depending on which diagnosis the doctor makes and which treatment is being initiated.

First of all, it is advisable to take it easy on those affected. In particular, the affected shoulder and arm must not be excessively stressed in order to ensure symptom-free healing. In the case of severe injuries, an operation is usually performed. After such an operation, the person affected must adhere to the doctor’s specifications with regard to wound care and any protective measures. In addition, regular medical checks are indicated.

The individual symptoms of a glenoid fracture can be alleviated with the help of various home and natural remedies. For example, the homeopathic remedies belladonna and arnica have proven themselves.

Conservative measures such as cooling or soothing massages also help against typical side effects such as pain, tension or muscle and joint pain. In consultation with the doctor, various remedies from Chinese medicine can be tried.

If these measures do not have any effect, you must definitely go to the doctor again with the fracture. Self-help measures should be avoided in the case of severe fractures. The most important measure then is to have the complaints treated professionally.

Glenoid Fracture

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