A shoulder dislocation can occur when the upper bone of the arm slips out of the cup-shaped shoulder joint. The shoulder is one of the most flexible joints in the body, with a wide range of motion, but this ability also makes it prone to injury. Dislocations can occur from sport activities, a hard blow to the shoulder or from attempting to catch oneself during a fall. Symptoms include severe shoulder pain, visible deformity of the shoulder and inability to move the arm or shoulder. A dislocation can cause tearing of the muscles or ligaments surrounding the joint, damage to nerves or blood vessels, and instability of the joint, which can lead to additional dislocations. If you experience this type of injury, you should keep a number of tips in mind:
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Anyone with this injury should go to an emergency room immediately for treatment. The physician will manipulate the bone back into the socket and will ensure that no further injury has occurred because of the dislocation. About 25 percent of dislocation cases involve a fracture of the bone, which will require treatment to promote proper healing.
Keep the Shoulder Immobile
Place a rolled towel, blanket or pillow between the upper part of the arm and the chest to keep the joint immobilized. Avoid moving the affected arm. You can wrap a large towel around your upper body to hold the arm against the chest to keep it from moving. If possible to do so comfortably, place the forearm of the affected arm in a sling with the elbow at a 90-degree angle to hold it in place under you see the doctor. After treatment, your doctor will determine when you can resume normal activities.
The injury may cause swelling of the shoulder and arm. To manage this natural reaction to an injury, place ice packs on the affected shoulder for 20 minutes, 4 to 8 times per day. You can wrap the ice packs in a thin towel to prevent chilling of the skin.
Generally, the physician will recommend taking and over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen to manage pain and reduce inflammation. Take according to package directions or as directed by your physician. If necessary, your physician can prescribe a stronger medication for pain.
Follow Up With Your Doctor
You should see your physician after the initial visit to ensure that healing is proceeding normally. If bruising, discoloration or other problem occurs, or if dislocation of the shoulder continues to be a problem, surgery may be needed to correct the problem. Complete healing of a simple shoulder dislocation without complication can take from 12 /to 16 weeks. If surgery to stabilize the shoulder is needed, healing time can be considerably longer and may include physiotherapy to strengthen the shoulder joint.
Additional shoulder dislocation treatment may be necessary if damage to ligaments, blood vessels or nerves has occurred. An orthopaedic surgeon can determine the extent of the damage and recommended appropriate treatment to prevent complications of the injury.