How Long Does a Shoulder Subluxation Take to Heal?

Reviewed on 5/17/2021

Healing time of a shoulder subluxation or shoulder instability may depend on the frequency of painful episodes
Healing time of a shoulder subluxation or shoulder instability may depend on the frequency of painful episodes

Healing time of a shoulder subluxation or shoulder instability may depend on the frequency of painful episodes and the type of management and rehab done. However, estimated time frame is three to five months. The goal of rehabilitation is to return to your normal activities and sport. If you return too soon, you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at different rates. It is determined by how soon your shoulder recovers and not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred. You may safely return to your sport or activity when

  • Your injured shoulder has a full range of motion without pain.
  • Your injured shoulder has regained normal strength compared with the uninjured shoulder.

In throwing sports, you must gradually build your tolerance to throwing. This means you should start with gently tossing and gradually throw harder.

What is a shoulder subluxation?

A shoulder subluxation is similar to a shoulder dislocation, the difference being that a subluxation is temporary and partial. It can be described as shoulder joint instability. Shoulder subluxations are much more common than dislocations and often occur in conjunction with other injuries. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint formed by the scapula bone (shoulder blade), which acts as the socket, and the head of the humerus (upper arm bone), which acts as the ball. Shoulder instability or a shoulder subluxation occurs when the head of the humerus (the ball) does not move properly against the surface of the scapula called the glenoid fossa (socket). Possible causes of a shoulder subluxation may include

  • Traumatic dislocation: The shoulder undergoes an injury with sufficient force to pull the shoulder out of the joint such as a violent tackle in rugby or a fall onto an outstretched hand.
  • Nontraumatic dislocation: It is caused by repeated shoulder movements gradually stretching out the soft tissue cover around the joint causing the rotator cuff muscles to become weak. Regularly working with your hands above your head may contribute to this.
  • Positional nontraumatic dislocation: The ability to dislocate your shoulder without any form of trauma is called positional non-traumatic dislocation. It may start off as a party trick, but if repeated, it can occur during everyday activities.

In few cases, a brain stroke may cause muscle weakness, which can lead to subluxation.

Shoulder subluxation symptoms

The symptoms of a shoulder subluxation may include

  • A popping sensation at the time of dislocation
  • Severe pain in the shoulder or upper arm
  • Visible deformity such as a bump on the front of the shoulder or in the armpit
  • Numbness or tingling along the arm
  • Weakness in the arm
  • Severely restricted range of motion
  • The affected shoulder may appear to hang down and forward creating a large dimple just below the shoulder blade near the collarbone
  • Muscle spasms may occur in the shoulder

Sometimes, there is no shoulder pain or loose sensation, and there will only be dead arm sensation. This can occur after making a tackle or putting the shoulder in an awkward position where it is injured. A young, active person who has a subluxation or dislocation is likely to experience repeat dislocations leading to chronic instability. The risk of recurrence can be as high as 60 percent, with each dislocation causing more wear and tear to the shoulder. Older people are typically less likely to experience recurrences because of the naturally stiffening of the body.

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References
Shoulder Subluxation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507847/

Chronic Shoulder Instability: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/chronic-shoulder-instability/

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