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About Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is an injury in which the upper part of the humerus leaves the socket of the shoulder blade. This is more serious injury comparing to separated shoulder since it always leads to damage of the nearby ligaments. Even though the treatment is effective and the function of the affected joint is restored within a few weeks the major problem connected with shoulder dislocation is repeated dislocation. Repeated dislocation develops as consequence of the injury to the shoulder which makes the shoulder weaker than it used to be.

It is estimated that shoulder dislocations actually represents the most common dislocation in the body. It generally develops as a consequence of sports injuries and falls. It is a frequent injury in contact sports such as football or hockey. In downhill skiing, gymnastics and volleyball it usually occurs due to falls. It is essential to mention that even trauma non related to sports may be a cause of shoulder dislocation (e.g. motor vehicle accidents).

Clinical characteristics of shoulder dislocation include a visibly deformed or out of place shoulder and swelling or discoloration of the injured area. Patients complain about intense pain and they are not able to move the injured arm. Additional symptoms of shoulder dislocation include numbness, weakness or tingling near the injury site. These sensations may spread down the arm.

Therapy for Dislocated Shoulder

If there is any chance a person has suffered a shoulder dislocation he/she should get medical help right away. It is essential not to move the joint. Moving can only cause further damage to nearby soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels). Immobilization can be achieved with a sling. But if there is no sling one can improvise and rig a sling by using a long piece of cloth.

Medical treatment for dislocated shoulder may start only after the condition has been confirmed (physical exam and X-ray of the shoulder). The doctor will perform a relocation of the joint and place the upper part of the humerus back in the socket of the shoulder blade. This maneuver may require mild sedation which will allow the patient to relax. Dislocated shoulder is generally relocated in the emergency department although some patients may need to be completely sedated or even require anesthesia before the maneuver. Open reduction is a surgical manipulation performed in patients with weak shoulder joints and ligaments and those who suffer from recurrent shoulder dislocations. After proper relocation patient's arm is placed into a sling or a shoulder immobilizer. These are supposed to be worn for a certain period of time. The doctor will also prescribe pain killers. Patients soon engage in rehabilitation program designed to restore the range of motion as well as the strength of shoulder muscles.

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