There are a few common types of shoulder injuries out there, and one of the most well-known is shoulder dislocation. What exactly happens to the shoulder during a dislocation injury, how does it differ from other shoulder injury types, and what are some of the notable symptoms that may signal a shoulder dislocation in your or someone else?
At The Orthopaedic Center, we’re here to provide numerous orthopedic services to patients around Tulsa, including everything from shoulder and elbow treatments to hip treatments, knee treatments, joint replacement services and more. Here’s everything you need to know about shoulder dislocation, including how to tell if it’s happened and some of the treatment options if so.
Defining Shoulder Dislocation
For those just learning about shoulder dislocation, understanding it involves also understanding the way the shoulder is set up. The human shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, one that’s designed to be able to move in many different directions.
This design, however, also makes it more prone to dislocation than other joints – if the ball part of the joint is pulled out of its socket, this is considered a shoulder dislocation.
How Shoulder Dislocations Take Place
Getting into a bit more detail, there are a few different ways that shoulder dislocations can take place. In many cases, this happens as a result of trauma or impact to the shoulder area – this could be from an accident, a sports injury or another such source.
In other cases, however, it’s not just physical impact alone that causes the dislocation. Some individuals have looser ligaments and shoulder tissues than others, making them more prone to this sort of issue even without direct contact in some situations. This is known as shoulder instability, and it raises the risk of dislocations.
There are also certain other rarer causes of shoulder dislocations. In under 5% of cases, for instance, the top of the humerus is found behind the shoulder blade – this is known as a posterior dislocation, sometimes taking place during a seizure or electric shock.
Differentiating Between Shoulder Dislocation and Separation
Before we get into some of the specific symptoms that may signal a shoulder dislocation, it’s important to quickly differentiate between this injury and another common one: The shoulder separation.
Shoulder separation, also known as an AC separation or acromioclavicular joint injury, is when the collarbone separates from the scapula bone; it’s a different injury entirely than a dislocation. While both can be painful and involve limited movement in the arm area, they are distinct issues requiring separate treatment methods.
Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocations
Here are some of the most frequent symptoms associated with shoulder dislocations:
- Severe pain in the shoulder area
- Inability to move the arm at all, often leading to the arm being held at the side away from the body, with the forearm turned outward
- Visible deformity or bulging in one side of the shoulder, or major swelling
- Loss of normal rounded contour in the shoulder area
- Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand
- Weakness in the arm
In many cases, a dislocated shoulder will also lead to bruising, which may take a few days to develop. In rare cases where there’s nerve damage, numbness and weakness may persist even after treatments have been completed.
Properly diagnosing a shoulder dislocation involves examination by a doctor, often including imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans.
Treatment for Shoulder Dislocations
There are several treatment options for a shoulder dislocation, but one element that’s vital in nearly every case is the process of repositioning the joint that’s come out of position. This is known as reducing the dislocation, and it’s usually done by a doctor or similar medical professional.
From here, several potential methods may be used to keep the shoulder stable while it heals – these include use of a sling or immobilizer, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles again, and in some cases surgery if there was significant damage during the dislocation. Your doctor will help you understand which options are most viable for your situation.
Finally, let’s briefly touch on some potential complications associated with shoulder dislocations. In general terms, these are more common when an individual experiences multiple dislocations over time without properly addressing them – this can lead to chronic instability known as recurrent dislocation. Other potential issues include arthritis in the shoulder, nerve or blood vessel damage and others.
If you have reason to believe you’ve suffered a shoulder dislocation, it’s important to reach out to your doctor for an evaluation as soon as possible. The earlier this is done, the better your chances of avoiding such complications and getting back to normal function quickly. And if you require any assistance with treatment or recovery from a shoulder dislocation, don’t hesitate to contact our team at The Orthopaedic Center today – we’re here to help with these and other pain issues for patients around Tulsa!