What to Do About a Dislocated Shoulder

What to Do About a Dislocated Shoulder

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which means the rounded, upper end of your arm bone (humerus) fits into a cup-like structure (glenoid) in your shoulder blade (scapula). 

Although it’s technically a socket joint, it’s not a tight fit like a trailer hitch on the back of a pickup truck. Instead, your shoulder joint is shallow, a design that gives you a great deal of mobility and allows you to rotate your arm 360 degrees. 

Unfortunately, this excellent motion-facilitating structure also makes you more vulnerable to shoulder injuries

Dislocation is one of the most common shoulder joint injuries. If it happens to you, you can count on NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., and our team of experts to treat your shoulder dislocation and restore your ability to move fully and without pain. Here’s what you should know about shoulder dislocations.

How shoulder dislocations occur

Shoulder dislocation can happen to anyone, but there are certain factors that put you at a higher risk.

Athletes who play contact sports, such as football, have a higher tendency to suffer from shoulder dislocations than other athletes. The second tier of athletes at risk for shoulder dislocation include those who take part in wrestling or play lacrosse, basketball, baseball, or soccer, on either men’s or women’s teams.

Extremely flexible people often suffer shoulder dislocation, too, because they have hypermobile joints that can easily slip out of position.

Also, elderly people face an increased risk of dislocating their shoulder due to their higher frequency of falls. Regardless of your age, if you fall forward and put your hands in front of you to stop yourself from hitting the ground, the force can push your shoulder out of place.

Telltale signs of a dislocated shoulder

The main sign of a dislocated shoulder is the intense pain. You may or may not hear an audible popping sound at the moment of injury, but the severe, acute pain and joint immobility it causes are unmistakable.

There are visual clues as well. A shoulder that has popped out of its joint appears squared off, rather than rounded. You may also notice a bulge near the top of your humorous toward the front of your shoulder. 

What to do if you’ve dislocated your shoulder

If you suspect a shoulder dislocation following an accidental fall or an injury on the sports field, follow these steps:

1. Don’t pop it back into place

Regardless of what you’ve seen in the movies, do not try to pop your shoulder back into place. If you attempt this, not only will you cause yourself more pain, you may also further damage your joint and the nerves and tissues that surround it. 

2. Immobilize your shoulder

Since a dislocated shoulder is extremely painful, this step is instinctive for most people, but we’ll say it anyway: immobilize your arm and shoulder. If you can fashion a sling out of fabric or prop your arm on a soft towel or blanket, you can minimize additional pain and avoid further damage.

3. Ice it

Dislocated shoulders swell up almost instantly, which contributes to the pain. Applying a bag of frozen peas on your shoulder or a bag of ice covered by a soft, clean towel can help reduce inflammation and ease your discomfort.

4. Seek medical help

Most dislocated shoulders require immediate professional medical attention. Call us at NEIL GHODADRA, M.D., for prompt, expert care. If it happens after office hours, go straight to an emergency care facility and call us the next day for a long-term care plan. 

How we treat dislocated shoulders

Treatment for your dislocated shoulder depends entirely on the extent of the damage. In some cases, Dr. Ghodadra can simply maneuver your shoulder back into the proper position. He may offer you a muscle relaxant or sedative to ease the discomfort of this procedure, which is called a closed reduction.

If the injury is more severe, however, he may need to perform surgery to repair or reattach ligaments and other soft tissues. To accelerate the healing of these soft tissues, Dr. Ghodadra may also recommend regenerative medicine methods, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections that use a concentrated serum of your own blood to deliver growth factors to the injured site.

In the weeks and months following your shoulder dislocation, expect to participate in physical therapy to gradually strengthen your shoulder so you can regain full function. 

If you’ve dislocated your shoulder, don’t hesitate to call us or request an appointment using our online booking tool. The sooner you come in, the sooner you’ll be out of pain and on the road to recovery. 

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