If you have pain following a shoulder injury or experience a sensation like your shoulder is giving out or feels loose — as though it’s just dangling — you may have a shoulder dislocation. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of your humerus, the long upper arm bone, comes out of the shoulder socket due to overuse or trauma.
A shoulder that’s come out of its socket once is vulnerable to doing so again and again. Your tendons, ligaments, and muscles can become loose or torn, leaving your shoulder unstable and vulnerable.
The team at Austin Shoulder Institute tries to treat your shoulder injury with the least minimally invasive strategies possible. But if these fail, you may need to resort to surgery.
Types of dislocation and causes
Dislocations can be partial or complete. A partial dislocation describes when the head of the humerus just comes out of the socket a bit — but not full separation. Partial dislocations are sometimes referred to as subluxations. When the ball of the upper arm bone comes out of the socket entirely, it’s a complete dislocation.
Several circumstances can cause your shoulder dislocation. The first time you experience a dislocation, it’s usually due to trauma or injury. This first dislocation leads you to be vulnerable to future ones caused by repetitive strain, such as when you perform repetitive movements.
You may also have looser ligaments in your shoulder due to genetics. Activities such as tennis and swimming or painting can cause repetitive movement that stretches out the ligaments, too. If you have a predisposition to an unstable shoulder due to accident or genetics and participate in repetitive movement, you compound your risk.
Rare cases of shoulder instability are due to a condition known as multidirectional instability. People without any genetic predisposition, prior injury, or repetitive strain develop looseness and dislocation in multiple directions. These patients are usually loose at multiple joints and may be termed as double jointed.
Noninvasive treatments for shoulder instability
Noninvasive treatments are usually better, as they don’t involve long recoveries or risk of infection. You may need to give these treatments several months of effort to see if they make a difference in your function and pain levels.
These nonsurgical treatments include activity modification — such as minimizing overhead arm movements and physical therapy to help strengthen your shoulder muscles and emphasize shoulder control. Usually, you can perform these modifications and therapy exercises at home.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, also help reduce inflammation and swelling.
When nonsurgical treatments don’t relieve pain or appropriately restore your function, the doctors at Austin Shoulder Institute may recommend surgery. Surgery may involve minimally invasive outpatient arthroscopy — repairing the soft tissue in the shoulder using tiny instruments and small incisions. In severe cases, open surgery with large incisions and longer healing time may be required.
Following surgery, the team at Austin Shoulder Institute prescribes a rehabilitation program to help restore your shoulder’s function. While you may be placed in a sling temporarily following surgery for immediate healing, physical therapy exercises to restore ligament function are the crux of healing your shoulder.
If you have symptoms of a shoulder dislocation, consult with the doctors at Austin Shoulder Institute right away to proceed with therapy and healing. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your outcome.
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