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Shoulder Dislocations/Instability

Shoulder dislocation is a common upper extremity injury, especially with those participating in contact sports. With a dislocation, the head of the upper arm bone is forced out of shoulder socket. The shoulder can dislocate forward, backward or downward.

What causes it?

The most common cause of a shoulder dislocation is a traumatic event – a blow to the shoulder or fall – typically occurring in young athletes engaged in contact sports like football or hockey.

Other causes include car accidents and falls.

How do you know you have it?

Symptoms of a shoulder dislocation:

  • “Popping” sensation followed by acute pain
  • Inability to move the arm
  • Muscle spasms
  • Reduced shoulder mobility
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Weakness and numbness

How we fix it

The OSI upper extremity team is here to examine you for signs and symptoms of shoulder dislocation. The following are used to determine the extent of the injury and the best course of care:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor will carefully examine your shoulder; it is important to know the circumstances that led to the dislocation and if dislocation has ever happened before.
  • X-ray: An X-ray may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment begins by shifting the shoulder joint back into place, known as reduction. This process may require the use of a sedative. Once back in place, immediate relief from pain should be felt. It is vital to follow treatment recommendations, as the risk for another dislocation following the initial occurrence is high.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Following reduction, nonsurgical methods include the use of a sling and physical therapy.

Surgical Treatment

Persistent shoulder instability (after at least six months of nonsurgical treatments) might necessitate a surgical intervention. There is also evidence that supports early surgery in young patients who are at a high risk for repeat dislocation.

Arthroscopy and open surgery are options for shoulder dislocation.

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