Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Dislocation

It’s a great sound to hear if you are getting a snack ready for a movie night. It can be a lot of fun with a roll of bubble wrap or a little startling if you’re holding a balloon. But if you hear “pop” while participating in sports or recreational activities, it’s usually a bad thing.

One of the most common “pops” for active people is the dislocation of the shoulder.

Of the large joints, the shoulder joint is the most commonly dislocated joint in the body. While the injury may not be life threatening, it can seriously limit your activity and ability to participate in the things you love.

RELATED: Common Shoulder Injuries From Overuse or Improper Lifting

The anatomy of the shoulder gives it the largest range of motion of any joint, but it also makes it more prone to instability. The bone structure of the shoulder joint is often described as a golf ball on a tee. The arm bone (humerus) that makes up the ball portion of the joint is three times the size of the bone that it sits on (glenoid). The shoulder joint relies on soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) around the joint to help provide stability. If these structures are injured, a simple dislocation can become problematic and result in multiple recurrent dislocations and/or decreased function.

Kids, teenagers and young adults are the most commonly affected group for shoulder dislocations. Most dislocations occur between the ages of 10 to 20 years old. Often, these are a result of sports or another traumatic events. In young patients, the labrum is usually torn during the dislocation. If the labrum tears and doesn’t heal or heals in a bad position, dislocations may reoccur during the patient’s lifetime.

The second most common age group affected by shoulder dislocations are patients aged 50 to 60 years old. Treating shoulder dislocations is very different in this age group because recurrence of dislocation is very low, but acute rotator cuff tears are common in this age group. An MRI should be performed if there is diminished motion and weakness after a shoulder dislocation to make sure the rotator cuff hasn’t torn.

In the event of a shoulder dislocation, a specially trained sports medicine or orthopedic physician should perform several maneuvers with pain medication and possible sedation to get the joint back in proper position. X-rays and other imaging should be done to look for damage to the labrum and rotator cuff. Delay in getting this care will make it difficult to get the joint back in position and could cause joint damage.

An orthopedic surgeon should be consulted to discuss possible surgical intervention, including the risks and benefits of both operative and non-operative treatment. If non-surgical treatment is chosen, the treatment will consist of immobilization in a sling for a couple weeks followed by physical therapy.

Surgery is recommended to stabilize the shoulder and repair the labrum or rotator cuff. Surgery is especially needed for multiple recurrences of dislocation. For some young patients, surgery may be recommended even after one dislocation if they participate in high-risk activities such as contact sports.

How to Prevent Shoulder Injury

Because the soft tissue around the shoulder joint provides the most stabilization, strengthening the shoulder muscles and stretching is the best way to prevent injury.

RELATED: 3 Stretches to Prevent Shoulder Pain and Injury

Here are four simple exercises and stretches you can to do at home to protect against shoulder injuries.

  1. Standing row
    Stand holding the band with your elbow bent and at your side. Keep your arm close and slowly pull your elbow straight back. Slowly return to the start position and repeat with the other arm.
  2. Internal rotation
    Stand holding the band with your elbow at your side. Keep your elbow close to your side and bring your arm across your body. Slowly return to the start position and repeat with the other arm.
  3. Pendulum stretch
    Lean forward and place one hand on counter or table, let your other arm hang freely at your side. Gently swing your arm forward and back, side to side and in a circular motion. Repeat with the other arm.
  4. Passive internal rotation
    Hold a stick behind your back and lightly grasp the other end with your other hand. Pull the stick horizontally so that your shoulder is stretched to the point of feeling a pull without pain. Hold for 30 Seconds. Repeat on the other side.