Dislocation of the shoulder is a condition where the ball (head of the humerus) of the shoulder has come out of its socket (the glenoid of the shoulder blade). Because the shoulder is naturally an extremely mobile joint, it suffers from low stability and half of the major dislocations that occur are that of the shoulder. A related but more chronic condition is ‘subluxation’, where the ball can move in and out of its socket with increasing ease because of the stabilising ligaments being ineffective – be that through a previous injury or recurrent over-stretching.
Is there more than one type of shoulder dislocation?
Yes, there are three main types of shoulder dislocation/subluxation:
1) Anterior or forward – The ball comes out towards the front in 95% of shoulder dislocations. These dislocations are usually caused by a blow to, or falling on, an outstretched arm and results in the ball sitting further forward and towards the middle, close to the ribcage.
2) Posterior or backward – These dislocations often go unnoticed as they are usually a result of a muscle contraction from a seizure or electric shock where assessment of the shoulder is not prioritised. They may also on rare occasions be caused by a muscle imbalance in the shoulder.
3) Inferior or downward – This dislocation is very rare and such injuries are complicated because there is a significant risk of damage being suffered by the nerves and blood vessels passing beneath the shoulder joint.
What are the symptoms of a shoulder joint dislocation?
· Inability to lift the arm up and out.
· Significant pain along the arm to the shoulder
· Numbness in the arm
· Visible disruptions of the normal contour of the shoulder.
If I dislocate my shoulder, what is my best course of action?
The use of a sling or a pillow between the arm and the torso can keep the shoulder in its current position and you should immediately make contact with your physiotherapist who is trained to diagnose this type of injury, take immediate action to relieve the symptoms and recommend a program of appropriate muscle strengthening and progressive resistant exercises to minimise the need for surgery and other extreme treatments. The main aim from day one will be to prevent recurrent incidents and preserving the remaining stability offered by the ligaments while reducing pain and building the dynamic stability available from the muscles
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