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Shoulder Dislocations/Instability

Dislocating a shoulder is a common upper extremity injury, especially with those participating in contact sports. When a shoulder is dislocated, the head of the upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket. The shoulder can be dislocated in various ways depending on where the contact or fall impacted the shoulder. It can be dislocated forward, backward, or downward.

What causes a Dislocated Shoulder?

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 a Dislocated Shoulder?

Symptoms of shoulder dislocation are:

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

How does OSI fix a Dislocated Shoulder?

A board-certified OSI shoulder specialist will examine you for signs and symptoms of shoulder dislocation. Your OSI doctor will employ the following to determine the extent of the injury and the best course of treatment:

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

Treatment begins with your OSI doctor shifting the shoulder joint back into place, known as reduction. This process may require the use of a sedative. Once back in place, pain relief is almost immediate. It is vital to follow treatment recommendations, as the risk for another shoulder dislocation following the initial dislocation is high.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Following putting the shoulder back in place, nonsurgical methods include:

  • Use of a sling 
  • Physical therapy; available at OSI 

Surgical Treatment

Your OSI orthopedic specialist may feel shoulder surgery is necessary if persistent shoulder instability (after at least six months of nonsurgical treatments) remains. There is also evidence to support that early surgery in young patients reduces the risk for repeat shoulder dislocation. Arthroscopy and open surgery are options for shoulder dislocation. You and your OSI orthopedic surgeon will discuss which course to take for the most effective results.