How to Recognize a Shoulder Dislocation

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body, allowing for a wide range of motion in various directions. This mobility enables us to easily perform both small and large movements. However, due to its extreme mobility, the shoulder is more prone to dislocation compared to other joints. Idaho Shoulder to Hand specializes in treating dislocated shoulders and can assist with any related issues. Athletes are more likely to experience shoulder dislocations, but they can also occur during everyday activities or as a result of falling or injuring oneself. Shoulder dislocations can be either complete or partial. A partial dislocation, known as subluxation in the medical field, happens when the upper arm bone (humerus) partially moves out of the shoulder socket. A complete dislocation occurs when the humerus completely moves out of the shoulder socket. Both types of dislocations cause shoulder pain and instability, requiring medical treatment.

Symptoms of a Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is an extremely painful injury, often accompanied by a popping sound or sensation. After the injury, patients typically experience numbness, pain, and swelling in the affected area. The shoulder may feel locked or frozen, significantly limiting mobility. The joint’s range of motion is compromised until the bones are properly realigned. Dislocations can occur in different directions, including downward, backward, and forward. The most common type is forward dislocation, known as anterior instability. Severe dislocations can result in damage to ligaments and tendons. When these structures are injured, the shoulder can become unstable, necessitating appropriate treatment to restore stability.

Causes of Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation can occur due to various factors. High-impact injuries, such as falls or sports-related accidents, are common causes of shoulder dislocation. Athletes are particularly prone to experiencing shoulder dislocations due to the intense physical demands of their activities. Additionally, everyday activities involving excessive force or repetitive motions can also lead to shoulder dislocations. Certain factors, such as laxity in the shoulder ligaments or a history of previous dislocations, can increase the likelihood of experiencing shoulder dislocation.

Types of Shoulder Dislocations

There are two common directions in which shoulders dislocate. Shoulder dislocations commonly occur in two directions: anterior (forward) and posterior (backward) dislocations.

Anterior Shoulder Dislocation

Anterior shoulder dislocation is the most frequent direction of dislocation, representing approximately 95% of all shoulder dislocations. In this type of dislocation, the humeral head shifts forward in relation to the glenoid socket. When an anterior dislocation occurs, the shoulder appears squared off due to the misalignment of the bones. Identifying an anterior dislocation is often straightforward due to this squared-off appearance. While anterior dislocations can lead to bone loss near the joint, it does not happen in all cases.

Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

Posterior shoulder dislocations are uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of cases. They typically occur as a result of high-impact injuries, where the arm is forcefully internally rotated while outstretched, leading to the dislocation of the joint. Posterior dislocations are so rare that they can be misdiagnosed. In this type of dislocation, the head of the humerus is pushed out of the joint in a posterior direction. Neck trauma or fractures of the neck or humerus often accompany this injury. Misdiagnosis can be problematic as it may result in further damage to ligaments, cartilage, or the rotator cuff, as the joint is not properly realigned.

Treatment Options

Treating a shoulder dislocation is typically a straightforward process. The first step is performing a closed reduction, which involves putting the ball of the upper arm back into the joint socket. This immediate realignment brings relief from the pain and discomfort caused by the dislocation. After the reduction, the shoulder may remain sore for a few days. Depending on the severity of the dislocation, rehabilitation may be necessary for several weeks to ensure joint stability and proper healing.

In cases where ligaments and tendons are involved in severe dislocations, surgical repair may be required. Without such repair, the shoulder can continue to dislocate due to joint instability. Arthroscopic surgery is often an effective option for repairing damaged tendons and addressing loose cartilage within the joint.

If the shoulder dislocation results in bone loss, surgical stabilization becomes necessary. Bone loss can occur in the glenoid (socket), leading to joint instability. Open surgical stabilization is typically performed when bone loss is present, especially in cases of recurrent dislocations that have not been treated surgically. The Latarjet procedure is a commonly used surgical technique for addressing glenoid bone loss. It involves taking a small piece of bone from the shoulder blade and transferring it to the front of the socket to correct the bone loss and enhance joint stability.

Contact Boise’s Shoulder Dislocation Experts

If you are experiencing chronic shoulder dislocations or have been diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder and are in need of specialized orthopedic care, Idaho Shoulder to Hand can provide assistance. Proper treatment is crucial in preventing further instability in the shoulder joint and addressing the potential chronicity of the condition. Shoulder joint instability can be quite painful, so it is advisable not to delay seeking help. By contacting our team, you can have your shoulder examined, and we will provide the necessary treatment to correct your shoulder condition and alleviate your discomfort.