What is a Dislocated Shoulder?

A Dislocated Shoulder is one that has come out of the socket joint. The shoulder (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint. The shoulder blade bone (scapula) extends up to the top of the shoulder ending in what is known as the glenoid cavity, or the socket. At the top end of the upper arm bone, the humerus, is the humeral head which is shaped like a ball. The humeral head fits nicely into the glenoid cavity socket. It is held in place by a series of ligaments and the joint capsule, which is a fibrocartilaginous bubble-like structure that surrounds the entire joint. Overuse, trauma, and other conditions may cause the humerus to come out of the socket and not go back in, as sometimes happens. This is when a diagnosis of a Dislocated Shoulder will be given.

What Causes a Dislocated Shoulder?

A shoulder can dislocate for a number of reasons. It is usually a trauma that will cause this to happen, but there are other causes as well. These can be:

● Trauma from a car or motorcycle accident
● A high impact sports-related injury
● Falling on outstretched hand (called a FOOSH injury)
● Seizures
● Complication after a stroke or another cause of paralysis of the body
● Repetitive strain to the shoulder and its ligaments
● In a small number of cases, a person may experience chronic instability of the shoulder joint leading to frequent dislocations

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Dislocated Shoulder Symptoms | How to Tell if Shoulder is Dislocated

The symptoms of a dislocated shoulder involve significant, intense shoulder pain, but the following may also be present when a shoulder is dislocated:

● A visibly deformed shoulder joint
● Swelling
● Bruising
● Pain with movement or complete lack of ability to move the shoulder joint
● Numbness, weakness, and tingling sensations that travel down your arm if nerves were damaged when the shoulder dislocated

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How to Treat a Dislocated Shoulder

Treatment of a dislocated shoulder must involve seeking help from a doctor. There is little to no chance of your arm going back into the socket and healing on its own. The muscles surrounding the shoulder joint are most likely spasming as a result of the trauma. These muscles need to be calmed down and you will likely be sedated to accomplish this. Then, your then your doctor can gently place the arm bone back in the socket. After this is accomplished a sling must be worn for 4-6 weeks in order to allow surrounding structures to heal. This is referred to as a closed reduction of the shoulder joint.

During your time in the sling, some movement is necessary so that full range of motion will likely be restored. A course of physical therapy will most likely be ordered in order to educate on proper movements and gentle range of motion exercises. After some time and enough healing has occurred, strengthening muscles around the shoulder will be the goal of therapy, with focus on the rotator cuff muscles.

If after closed reduction and physical therapy, you continue to experience severe pain in your shoulder, you may require surgery in order to put everything back in place or if the damage to the surrounding muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves is severe.
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