The shoulder is the body’s most mobile joint, it can turn many directions; however, this advantage also makes the shoulder an easy joint to dislocate. There are several kinds of dislocations. A partial dislocation means that the head of the upper arm bone, the humerus, is only partially out of the socket. A complete dislocation means that the humerus is all the way out of the socket. Both types of dislocation can cause severe pain and unsteadiness in the shoulder.
Symptoms of shoulder dislocation include swelling, numbness, weakness and bruising. In some cases, dislocation may tear ligaments or tendons in the shoulder or damage nerves. The shoulder joint can dislocation forward, backward and downward. The most common type of shoulder dislocation is when the shoulder slips forward, meaning the upper arm bone is moved forward and down out of its joint. This can happen when the arm is put in a throwing position.
Spasming of the muscles may occur with dislocation and can cause severe pain. If the shoulder dislocates time-and-time again, there is a shoulder instability. It is important for the doctor to know if the dislocation has happened before.
Shoulder dislocations are treated by placing the humerus (upper arm bone) back into the joint socket through closed reduction. Pain will cease almost immediately once the shoulder is back in place.
Your doctor may want you to immobilize the shoulder in a sling for several weeks after dislocation. Plenty of rest is needed, and you may want to ice the area 3-4 times per day. After pain and swelling have reduced, the doctor will want you to do some form of physical therapy to restore the shoulder’s range of motion and strengthen the muscles. This will prevent dislocation from happening in the future.
If shoulder dislocation becomes chronic, a brace can help; however, if these methods fail surgery may be needed to repair or tighten the torn or stretched muscles which help hold the joint in place. This usually happens with young athletes.