Most people assume that a dislocated shoulder is the same thing as a separated shoulder, but this is actually not the case. A dislocated shoulder is when the upper arm bone “ball” is dislocated out of the shoulder socket. A separated shoulder occurs when the shoulder blade and the collarbone become separated, as the ligaments are either stretched or torn.
Therefore, a shoulder separation injury actually occurs above the shoulder joint, where the collarbone meets the highest point of the shoulder blade. A separated shoulder is typically caused by a fall directly onto the shoulder, damaging the ligaments that surround the shoulder and keep it stable.
A separated shoulder can be treated at home with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can also take over-the-counter medicine to help alleviate the pain.
Typically, the normal pain-free range of motion returns after a few weeks. However, in severe cases of shoulder separation, the damage to the ligaments may require surgery.
Symptoms of a Separated Shoulder
The symptoms of a shoulder separation include:
- Severe pain in the shoulder and upper arm
- Visible deformation of the collarbone
- A large bump on the front or rear of the shoulder
The instant a person suffers a separated shoulder, they will know – it is not a “silent” injury that has no symptoms. The pain is accompanied by bruising, swelling, tenderness, and the formation of a visible bump on the shoulder.
Treatment for a Shoulder Separation
Depending on the severity of the separation, your doctor may have you wear an immobilizing sling. Cold therapy and anti-inflammatory medication also comprise the typical course of treatment for a mild separation.
Along with this treatment, a wait-and-see approach is usually taken to gauge the extent of damage and to see whether normal pain-free motion occurs on its own. Surgery is typically only necessary in severe cases where the connective tissues have torn.
A separated shoulder usually takes around six weeks to heal. The length of time depends on the severity of the separation and the type of treatment that is required to repair the separation.
If the pain or deformity doesn’t improve, your doctor may recommend surgery to reattach the ligaments. This requires a longer period to heal, but it is usually very successful.
Shoulder Surgeons in South Texas
Don’t try to diagnose your shoulder injury yourself – see the experts at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine so you’re sure to heal quickly and without issues.
Whatever measure is used to treat your shoulder injury, due to the range with which the shoulder moves, physical therapy will likely be recommended to regain a full range of motion. With proper treatment and care, most people who suffer a separated shoulder go on to regain full use and range of motion in their shoulder joint.
If you or someone you know has a shoulder injury or any other musculoskeletal condition, contact us today by calling (210) 692-7400 or request an appointment online now. You can trust our experienced and skilled medical team to give you the best care.