Shoulder Dislocation

What is it?

  • The ball of the arm bone (humerus) is forced fully out of its normal position on the shoulder (glenoid labrum).
  • Due to the force required to dislocate the shoulder it can also cause tears or partial tears to the muscles, ligaments and the capsule surrounding the joint.
  • A dislocation is different to a subluxation, as with a subluxation it only comes out partially then goes back in.

There are 3 different types of shoulder dislocations:

Anterior dislocation, where the humerus moves frontwards. This is the most common type for initial and re-occurring

Posterior dislocation, where the humerus moves backwards. This is less common. It is typically caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand, a motor vehicle accident or from a fall due to a seizure. Inferior dislocation, where the humerus moves down. This is least common.

Shoulder dislocations can also be caused by non-traumatic shoulder instability, encompassing those where trauma is not considered the primary cause. This includes congenital instabilities (such as laxity of structures in the shoulder which may be present since birth) and chronic recurrent instabilities (which could be from re-occurring micro-trauma of the shoulder joint).

How is it diagnosed?

The health care professional will take a history of what happened as well as their symptoms, of which individuals often report intense pain and perhaps a feeling of instability or “out of place”.
If it hasn’t been relocated there will be an obvious deformity of the shoulder, the deformity will depend on which way the shoulder has dislocated. The persons shoulder range of motion will be severely limited and swelling and bruising may be noted.

What can Back in Action do to help?

We help patients through their rehabilitation from the initial stage post injury, where the aim is to protect the healing tissue, reduce pain and swelling, to getting you back to full function, work and sport.
From this you could expect range of motion exercises, strengthening, stability and proprioception work (this is how your brain knows where your body is in space). Massage to help reduce swelling or muscle spasm may be used, as well as taping to help offload the rotator cuff muscles.