As your body’s most mobile joint, your shoulder can rotate in many directions. However, this also makes your shoulder joint that much easier to dislocate, either partially or completely. A partial dislocation occurs when the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) is only partially dislodged from the socket (glenoid). A complete dislocation means that the humeral head has fully dislodged from the socket.
The most common causes of a sudden dislocated shoulder include a sports injury, such as a fall onto the shoulder, or a car accident. In addition, overuse from repetitive sports activities such as tennis, golf, or pitching and throwing can cause the ligaments to loosen, which can gradually result in shoulder dislocation.
The orthopedic doctors at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in San Antonio are experts at diagnosing and treating a dislocated shoulder. Learn more about the injury below.
Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder
Symptoms include extreme pain, difficulty moving your arm, swelling, numbness, weakness, and bruising. A dislocated shoulder may also trigger muscle spasms, which can make it hurt even more; increase the risk of tearing a ligament or tendon in your shoulder, or potentially cause nerve damage.
A shoulder joint can dislocate forward, backward, or downward, but the most common type is when your upper arm bone moves forward and down out of its joint. If your shoulder dislocates repeatedly, it means you have shoulder instability.
Treating Shoulder Dislocation
A dislocated shoulder requires immediate medical attention. It’s important to tell your doctor how you dislocated your shoulder and whether this has happened before. Your doctor will examine your shoulder and, if necessary, order an X-ray.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce the pain and swelling. In most cases, the doctor will manually move the ball of the humerus back into the joint socket. This nonsurgical technique is known as reduction.
Following treatment, your doctor may immobilize your shoulder in a sling for several weeks. During your recovery, you should rest your shoulder and ice the sore area 3-4 times per day.
Once the pain and swelling subside, you will participate in physical therapy to restore your shoulder’s range of motion, strengthen your muscles, and help you prevent dislocating your shoulder in the future.
If you repeatedly dislocate your shoulder, your doctor might suggest wearing a brace for stability. But if neither rehab nor bracing helps, you may require surgery to repair or tighten torn or stretched ligaments.
If you suffer a dislocated shoulder or other shoulder injuries, call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine immediately. One of our specialists can put it back into place and ensure proper alignment of your shoulder. To schedule an appointment, dial (210) 692-7400 or complete our online form.