A shoulder dislocation occurs when there is abnormal separation in the shoulder joint. The shoulder is likened to a ball and socket joint, wherein the round top of the arm serves as the former and the groove in the shoulder blade serves as the latter. A partly dislocated shoulder means that only a part of the ball is displaced from the socket, and this is called shoulder subluxation. The shoulder being the most mobile joint in the body, it is the most common form of dislocation in adults. In children, it is the elbow.
A shoulder dislocation is different from a separated shoulder. The former is more severe and causes more extensive damages, whereas the latter entails damage to the ligaments of the joint. Once the shoulder has been dislocated, it makes the shoulder more prone to dislocations in the future.
Bones of the Shoulder:
The shoulder joint has three bones that articulate together:
- Humerus (upper arm bone)
- Scapula (shoulder blade
- Clavicle (collar bone)
Shoulder Dislocation Causes
Being inherently stable, the shoulder joint is prone to the ball slipping out of place from the socket. Some of the common causes of shoulder dislocation include:
- Falling onto the shoulder, especially on hard surfaces
- Falling onto an outstretched hand (although may common cause fractures to the limbs rather than dislocations)
- Tripping and landing onto the shoulder
- Getting hit on the shoulder
- Sharp twisting of the arm
- Contact sports
- American Football
Shoulder Dislocation Symptoms
Aside from the generally obvious deformity of the shoulder, there are several signs and symptoms, which could entail that there is a shoulder dislocation rather than a separated shoulder:
- Deformity, which could appear as a bump in the front or back of the shoulder (main difference)
- Shoulder and upper arm pain, worsened by movement
- Swelling and bruising
- Weakness and numbness
- Inability to move the shoulder
Shoulder Dislocation First Aid Treatment
If one suspects a shoulder dislocation, whether partial or complete, seek medical help immediately. It is strongly recommended to give first aid while waiting for medical help to ease pain and other symptoms. To treat the injury, it is recommended to:
- Place an ice pack or a cold compress on the shoulder to lessen pain and swelling. This should be done for 20-30 minutes at a time ever three to four hours, for at least two to three days.
- Immobilize the shoulder. A pillow may be placed in between the upper arm and chest. If possible, create a sling that would help avoid movement from the shoulder. Do not force the arm to move or attempt to push back the dislocated bone.
- Take pain medications to help ease the pain.
- If the doctor recommends stretching and strengthening exercises, practice to do so.
- Surgery may be required in severe cases.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and not meant to substitute for medical instruction or formal training. To learn more about how to manage shoulder dislocations and other bone-related injuries in the body, enroll in First Aid Courses.