A dislocated shoulder typically occurs after a fall onto the arm. In most cases, it requires between 12-16 weeks to heal after the shoulder has been restored into its proper place.
If an individual has a dislocated shoulder, it simply means that the ball joint of the upper arm popped out of the socket. The neighboring tissues end up overly stretched or torn. Always bear in mind that the shoulder is one of the joints in the body that is easily dislocated since the ball joint rests on a shallow socket. This makes the arm highly mobile and capable of moving in various directions, but it is also not stable.
Many individuals end up with a dislocated shoulder while engaging in contact sports or accidents. Among the elderly, falling onto extended hands can be the cause. A dislocated shoulder is quite common among individuals who are highly flexible such as those with joint hypermobility.
Is my shoulder dislocated?
In most cases, the ball of the joint pops out in front of the shoulder socket. Take note that this is evident since the individual could not move the arm and there is intense pain, the shoulder appears square rather round and there is a perceivable lump beneath the skin in the front part of the shoulder.
It is also unusual for the bone to pop out of the back of the shoulder joint. This can occur after the individual experienced an epileptic fit or electrocution and can be difficult to spot.
What to do for a dislocated shoulder?
If an individual is suspected with a dislocated shoulder, bring him/her to the nearest emergency department right away.
Do not attempt to pop the arm back since this can lead to further damage to the tissues, blood vessels and nerves surrounding the shoulder joint. The individual should not move the upper arm. Place a pillow or folded blanket in the space in between the arm and side of the chest for added support. If possible, create a simple sling to support the lower arm across the chest with the elbow bent at a right angle.
Treatment for a dislocated shoulder
When the individual arrives at the hospital, an X-ray is performed to check if there are any broken bones since it is quite common for other bones in the upper arm or joint to break.
In case the individual did not sustain a fracture, additional scans might be performed to asses in detail. If there is a fracture with the dislocation, a specialist is usually referred and surgery might be required.
If there are no fractures, the arm is manipulated in a gentle manner back into its shoulder joint which is known as reduction. It is important to note that surgery is oftentimes needed if the tissues that surround the joint are severely torn and the joint is unstable. In case the tissues are overly stretched but not torn, surgery can be avoided by performing proper exercises to strengthen the shoulder.