The shoulder is probably one of the most vulnerable joints in the body to dislocate. Thanks to its ability to move in just about any direction, it is quite vulnerable to get dislocated. Around half of the major joint dislocations that are reported in emergency departments are estimated to involve the shoulder. It could get dislocated partially (subluxation) or completely, though in terms of pain it does not make much of a difference since both are more or less equally painful.
Dislocation could also, in some cases, end up tearing shoulder tendons or ligaments or even damaging the nerves. With a shoulder dislocation the joint could dislocate in one of three directions:
- Forward (anterior) – the upper arm moving forward from its joint. This accounts for 90% of the shoulder dislocation cases and is usually caused when the arm is in a throwing position.
- Backward (posterior) – Caused by imbalance of strength of rotator cuff muscles. This fracture could even go unnoticed in some cases, particularly with elderly patients.
- Downward (inferior) – The most complicated of the shoulder dislocation instances, but accounting for only around 1%.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of shoulder dislocation are typically swelling, bruising, numbness and weakness. The pain is severe, particularly when you try to move your arm away from your body. In many cases you, or others, could see your shoulder displaced from the outside. It appears squarer than usual. The bone would not be visible in the shoulder’s side.
What are the Treatment Options?
There is just one thing to do in the event of a shoulder dislocation or fracture – get the humerus or upper arm’s ball back into the socket of the joint. This can be done manually by the doctor who would then keep the shoulder immobilized by placing it in a sling for a few weeks after the treatment. Rest and applying ice on the area three to four times a days are the steps to be taken during the rehabilitation process. Once the manual placing of the ball back into the socket is complete, the pain subsides. The rehabilitation process is therefore largely free from discomfort though there will be swelling and some pain.
Rehabilitation exercises would also be prescribed by the doctor to prevent future dislocation of the shoulder and ensure restoration of the range of motion of the shoulder. Muscle toning exercises are prescribed to begin with, followed by weight training later.
In the rare event of the shoulder dislocation getting chronic, bracing would be prescribed, and if that doesn’t work you may need surgery to set the joint in place. However, an experienced physical therapy and rehabilitation center would ensure the best non-surgical treatment options.