The shoulder joint is the body’s most mobile joint. It can move, turn, and swing in many directions. While that mobility is a huge advantage, it also means that the shoulder is susceptible to becoming dislocated.
What is a Dislocated Shoulder?
The top of your upper arm bone is shaped like a ball. This ball fits into a cuplike socket in your shoulder blade. When the ball of your arm bone ball pops out of your shoulder socket, then the resulting injury is what’s known as a dislocated shoulder. A dislocation may be partial, where the ball is only partially out of the socket, or it can be a full dislocation, where the ball is completely out of the socket.
What Causes a Shoulder to Become Dislocated?
The most common causes of shoulder dislocations are sports injuries, car accidents, falls, and severe seizures. A dislocated shoulder can happen to anyone, but they are more common in young men, who are more often involved in sports and other physical activities. Older adults are also at higher risk because they are more likely to fall.
What are the Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder?
The symptoms of a dislocated shoulder include:
- Severe shoulder pain
- A visibly deformed or out-of-place shoulder
- Swelling and bruising of your shoulder or upper arm
- An inability to move your arm
Along with any of the above symptoms, you may also experience shoulder muscle spasms and/or numbness and weakness in your arm, neck, hand, or fingers. If you are experiencing any of these common symptoms of a dislocated shoulder, then seek medical treatment right away. Do not try move your shoulder or push it back into place yourself. If you try to push the shoulder back into the joint on your own, you may end up injuring your shoulder even further, or damaging the nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, and muscles in that area.
How is a Dislocated Shoulder Diagnosed?
If you think your shoulder is dislocated, then make an appointment with an orthopedist who specializes in sports medicine. The doctor will examine your shoulder and take an x-ray which will confirm the dislocation and also help identify any other bones that may have been broken.
How is a Dislocated Shoulder Treated?
The treatment for a dislocated shoulder usually involves three steps:
- Step 1: Closed reduction. This is a procedure in which your health care provider makes a manual adjustment to your arm and shoulder, so the arm bone slides back into place. You may first get medicine to relieve the pain and relax your shoulder muscles. Once the joint is back in place, the pain should immediately stop.
- Step 2: Immobilization. Your doctor will likely have you wear a sling anywhere from a few days to several weeks to keep your shoulder in place. Your doctor will also prescribe pain medication or advise you to take over-the-counter pain relievers during recovery.
- Step 3: Physical therapy. Once the shoulder has healed and you are no longer feeling any pain or discomfort, you will see a physical therapist who will demonstrate exercises to help you improve your range of motion and strengthen your muscles.
In more severe cases, you may need shoulder dislocation surgery. This is a last resort that is used if a closed reduction is unsuccessful or if there is extensive damage to the surrounding tissue that needs to be repaired.
How Long Does It Take for a Full Shoulder Dislocation Recovery?
It can take anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks to completely recover from a dislocated shoulder. After 2 weeks, you should be able to return most of your normal daily activities. If your goal is to return to sports, gardening, or other activities that include heavy lifting, then be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Participating in these activities before you are fully recovered can result in further injury.
Talk to your doctor about the options available to you. With proper care, your dislocated shoulder will heal properly, and you’ll be able to resume your day-to-day activity before you know it.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain or think you may have a dislocated shoulder then contact Dr. James Parolie at Somerset Orthopedic & Sports Medicine. Dr. Parolie specializes in sports injuries and arthroscopic surgery. Call 908-425-4990 to schedule an appointment today.