- What Is It?
- Is It Serious?
- Recovery Time
What is a shoulder dislocation?
Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint where the head of the humerus (ball) fits into the glenoid cavity (socket) of the scapula bone. When the humerus slips out of the glenoid cavity, the condition is known as a shoulder dislocation.
Compared with other joints in the body, the shoulder is extremely mobile. You can turn and move your upper arm in almost all directions. However, this also makes the shoulder most vulnerable to dislocations.
Shoulder dislocations are the most common joint dislocations observed in the emergency department and make up for more than 50% of all dislocations observed in hospitals.
What causes a shoulder dislocation?
Almost all shoulder dislocations are caused by trauma. Such trauma can happen while falling onto your shoulder, especially on a hard surface or being hit in the shoulder by a heavy object. In young patients, shoulder dislocations happen most commonly due to sports such as football, basketball, and volleyball.
Occasionally, the cause of shoulder dislocation can be laxity of ligaments that hold the shoulder joint. Loose ligaments may dislocate the shoulder with even simple activities such as raising an arm or rolling over in bed. This is commonly observed in older adults and in people who have a pre-existing condition of loose ligaments in the whole body.
Is a dislocated shoulder serious?
A shoulder dislocation puts you in extreme pain; your shoulder swells and looks deformed. This is a serious condition and needs to be treated right away.
In severe injuries of a shoulder dislocation, the tissue and nerves around the shoulder joint may get damaged.
If you keep dislocating your shoulder, you could end up with chronic instability, weakness, and numbness.
If there is associated bone damage, you may have to undergo a bone transfer surgery.
What does it mean to reduce a shoulder dislocation?
If you get a shoulder dislocation, your doctor will reposition your shoulder through a process called “reducing a shoulder.” If he performs this procedure manually, without opening your shoulder, it is known as a closed reduction of a shoulder dislocation.
- To reduce the dislocation, your doctor may give you medications to relieve your pain and relax your shoulder muscles throughout the procedure.
- Weights may be tied to your arms to extend the tightened muscles.
- Then the doctor will pull your humerus gently and carefully against these muscles until the humerus returns in its socket.
Various methods may be used to achieve this goal. These include:
- Scapular manipulation
- Hennepin maneuver (external rotation)
- Traction-counter traction
- Stimson technique
- Milch technique
- Axillary traction
- Spaso technique
As per your condition and the doctor’s experience, your doctor will decide the most appropriate method of a shoulder reduction for you.
When a ligament, tendon, or nerve around your shoulder gets damaged during a shoulder dislocation, your surgeon may perform surgery to repair the torn or damaged structures and reduce the shoulder. This procedure is known as an open reduction of shoulder dislocation.
What is done after the reduction of a shoulder dislocation?
- An X-ray of your shoulder will be taken to confirm the success of the reduction procedure.
- You will rest your arm in a sling for one to four weeks.
- Your shoulder needs adequate rest for its healing. You can ice the sore area three to four times a day.
- You will need a physical therapy program to strengthen your arm muscles and restore the normal functioning of your shoulder.
- You will have regular follow-up with your doctor to know the stability of your shoulder and the necessary precautions.
How long does it take to recover from a dislocated shoulder?
- How quickly you recover depends on how serious your shoulder injury is.
- A dislocated shoulder usually takes three to four months to heal completely after the procedure.
- You can usually resume most of your normal activities within two weeks.
- You should avoid heavy lifting and sports for six weeks to three months.
- If you have also got broken bones in your arm, you may have to wear your sling for up to six weeks, and recovery will take longer.
Joint Problems Resources
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Shoulder Dislocation. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/93323-overview
Dislocated Shoulder and Separated Shoulder. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/dislocated-separated-shoulder#1
Shoulder dislocation. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/shoulder-dislocation-a-to-z
Dislocated shoulder. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dislocated-shoulder/