This may sound surprisingly odd, but some people are capable of intentionally dislocating and reconnecting their shoulder joint and bang it back in by themselves. Partially dislocating your shoulder from its joint is also known as a shoulder subluxation. When the humerus or the ball of the upper arm partly pops out of its socket this can be a very painful experience.
However, if the shoulder joint has been completely pulled out of the socket, it may not be as easy or even possible to reconnect and reposition it without medical help.
A person’s shoulder joint contains a lot of ligaments and muscles to keep the bones working together as one stable unit. It is almost always the easiest to dislocate because it is the joint that is mostly used when a person is mobile. A shoulder subluxation can cause the bone to deviate forward, backward and even downward depending on the motion involved. If the injury is quite severe, it can also cause muscles, ligaments, and tendons to tear.
How Does It Feel Like?
Depending on how the shoulder was injured, common symptoms of a shoulder subluxation may include ;
- Numbness or tingling sensation on the affected arm
- Difficulty in moving the joint
- Visibly out of place shoulder
- Clicking sound when moved
A fully dislocated shoulder may also present the same symptoms so it is always advisable to have the injury evaluated by your doctor.
What May Have Caused It?
Being that the shoulder joint is responsible for many bodily movements, it is not far fetched that is always prone to injury. Normal day to day physical activities can cause a shoulder to dislocate from its socket even by just rotating your arm to an improper extension or a bad fall.
- Injuries from sports activities: Indulging in full contact sports or extreme sports were falling or getting twisted about posing high risks for any bone dislocation or fractures.
- Trauma from accidents. Any accidental falls or vehicular accidents can cause the shoulder to dislocate as we always tend to support or cushion a fall with our full body weight on a particular side of the shoulder causing it to pop out of its socket
- Stroke: When a person suffers from a stroke, muscle weakness is very evident in certain areas of the body. The muscle weakness destabilizes the shoulder joint and causes a subluxation.
Upon seeking medical advice, an Xray or an ultrasound will be required to confirm the dislocation or a possible fracture. Once a dislocation has been determined, your doctor will devise ways to put your shoulder back in place and give you instructions for care management.
The Treatment Plan
Treating a dislocated shoulder joint ultimately means realigning and repositioning the joint with the upper arm and ensure it stays in place. There are a few ways to approach treatment :
- Closed reduction: This will involve gently maneuvering the bone to its original position. This treatment process can be very painful and sometimes the doctor may put you on pain relievers prior to the procedure or in some cases general anesthesia. Once the ball joint is back in place, pain improvement is immediately felt.
- Immobilization: After doing a closed reduction, the injured shoulder will need to be kept immobile.for weeks since the ball joint is still tender and may slip out of socket alignment. A shoulder brace or a sling will keep the shoulder stable until it is completely healed.
- Medication: Muscle relaxants will help with pain relief as well as inflammation of the ligaments, muscles, and tendons
- Surgery: When nerves and ligaments have been damaged by the injury, your doctor may require you to undergo surgery especially if you are having recurring dislocations. Shoulder joint surgery can be done by making small incisions called arthroscopy or an open reconstruction procedure known as arthrotomy.
- Rehabilitation: Whether you have undergone surgery or closed reduction treatment, therapy and rehabilitation is an important aspect of treatment for full recovery and use of your shoulder joint. Rehabilitation helps you regain muscle strength and ease of movement while stabilizing your shoulder joint with gentle exercises
Recovery and Homecare
An in-home exercise program will be given by your therapist with a recommended duration depending on the extent of your injury. While on the road to recovery, you may still not be allowed any physical activity that can put a strain on your injured joint. These in-home exercise routine slowly helps you get those muscles and ligaments back in top form. All you need to remember are these 3 homecare rules :
- Rest: Refrain yourself from any strenuous activity that can cause you to pop that ball joint back out again. The recurrence of shoulder subluxation is highly possible even with just lifting heavy objects, or throwing/tossing a ball and hyperextending your arm to reach. Easing Into your normal activities especially sports is essential for complete recovery.
- Ice: Treating your shoulder joint to an ice pack or a cold compress several times a day for 15 – 20 mins can do wonders to keep swelling at bay and relieve pain. As soon as pain improvement is noticeable you may switch to heat therapy to help blood circulation.
- Therapeutic Massage: Injured muscles and joints tend to stiff up after surgery and while in recovery. A therapeutic massage by a professional can do wonders for pain relief. The massage is a good way to relax tight and taut muscles and make them ready for mobility.
Is There Anything to be Worried About?
Although shoulder subluxation is easily treated, there is always a case of complications in some people. This may be relative to the type of activity involved when the injury occurred as well as the physical state of the body at the time of the injury.
- Recurring subluxation
- Shoulder instability
- Loss of movement
- Nerve or blood vessel damage
There is not much to worry if a person seeks medical help after incurring a shoulder subluxation or any other injury for that matter. This assures a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans and medication to ensure a full recovery. Do remember that recovery time varies for different people depending on the extent of their injury and need for surgery. After a subluxation, it may be best to avoid strenuous physical activities/sports/ workout exercises to prevent a recurrence.