Shoulder Dislocation

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A dislocation is a separation of two bones where they meet at a joint. Joints are areas where two bones come together. Most dislocations can be treated in a doctor's office or emergency room. You may be given medicine to make you sleepy and to numb the area. Sometimes, general anesthesia in the operating room is needed.

When treated early, most dislocations will not result in permanent injury.

  • Injuries to the surrounding tissues generally take 3-6 weeks to heal. Sometimes, surgery to repair a torn ligament is needed.
  • Injuries to nerves and blood vessels may result in more long-term or permanent problems.

Once a joint has been dislocated, it is more likely to happen again. Follow-up with one of our orthopaedic surgeons is recommended after a dislocation.
Dislocations are usually caused by a sudden impact to the joint. This usually occurs following a blow, fall or other trauma.

Symptoms of a dislocated shoulder include:

  • Intensely painful, especially if you try to use the arm or move it
  • Limited in movement
  • Area is swollen or bruised
  • Visibly out of place, discolored or misshapen
  • Numbness or tingling at the joint or beyond it

Treatment

Dislocated shoulders need to be treated right away, and medical care should be sought immediately, as one of our doctors will need to move the arm bone back into the shoulder socket. After the bone is repositioned, you can treat by:

  • Icing your shoulder
  • Wearing a sling
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medicine.
  • One of our doctors will likely recommend a course of physical therapy first to regain motion and strengthen the joint, after first being in a sling for a period of time
  • An MRI is usually helpful to help determine the degree of damage to the labrum and rotator cuff.
  • Significant tears of the labrum and/or rotator cuff may require surgical repair.
  • Surgery can usually be performed arthroscopically, utilizing very small incisions in a minimally invasive fashion.
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