Everything You Need to Know About Shoulder Subluxation

Everything You Need to Know About Shoulder Subluxation
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A subluxation describes the condition in which the shoulder or one part of the shoulder gets dislocated. The bone of the arm, humerus ends in a ball-like shape which is there connected and perfectly fits into the glenoid, a socket that is similar to a cup. A subluxation means that a part of this arm bone came out of the socket, while in a shoulder dislocation the arm bone completely comes out of it. The part of the bone that comes out of the socket may be in the upper area and the bone can move forward, backward or even downwards.

This condition is quite common, as the shoulder is very prone to injuries due to its mobility. Since we are able to move the shoulder in almost all directions, moving it too fast or not properly can lead to subluxation. It is, however, more commonly known that one would get this condition if this movement is done repeatedly, without proper stretching and rest. A subluxation can also lead to a muscle tear, a tear of the ligaments or a tear of the tendons that are found near the shoulder joint.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder subluxation?

The main discomfort that patients begin to notice is pain around the shoulder area. It might even begin to swell and in some cases, the area that has been hurt might feel numb. In general, patients find it more difficult to move the shoulder properly and describe a general feeling of weakness. In some cases, patients will even be able to see the arm bone misplaced under the skin, or feel the ball-shaped part of the arm bone moving in and out of its socket. This, itself is very uncomfortable and distressful to the patient.

What causes a shoulder subluxation?

As mentioned above, the shoulder is very prone to dislocation due to its wide range of mobility. In common cases, moving the shoulder too fast will be enough to move the arm bone out of the socket. However, more likely a shoulder subluxation occurs due to trauma. Falling or vehicle accidents are common injuries that are well known to lead to a shoulder subluxation.

Sports injuries are just as, if not more common. Sports like hockey, softball or football that involve a lot of throwing and moving the shoulder can cause it, just as sports where one would be more prone to falling, like gymnastics or skiing.

Having had a stroke is another cause for a shoulder subluxation. A stroke will turn the muscles weak and affect the shoulder joint so greatly, that more than a half of the patients who have had a stroke will end up getting a dislocated shoulder as well.

And lastly, having had a dislocated shoulder in the past will increase your chances of having to deal with the same problem later on again. In conclusion, at greater risk are younger people who are very active and athletic, but people with age as well, especially if they have had a stroke.

How is a shoulder subluxation treated?

Treating a shoulder subluxation involves treating the symptoms and discomfort, but also putting the arm bone back in its original place. It is important to visit a doctor if you start to notice any of the symptoms described above. In some cases, the arm bone may go back in its place all by itself, however, it is important to have it checked out by a professional to make sure that everything is back as it should be.

The doctors will also choose the right type of treatment based on your individual case, which is why it is important to them and to your treatment to know where exactly the dislocation has occurred. Typically, an ultrasound will be used to diagnose this condition.

Depending on your particular case and the grade of the dislocation, the doctor might be able to place the arm bone back in its place using a certain, skilled movement. If this is successful the pain and discomfort will greatly go away and you might end up feeling only a mild pain, which would take less than a day to also disappear.

This maneuver that doctors use can only be used in certain, milder cases of a shoulder subluxation. If the swelling and shoulder pain are unbearable, the doctor can prescribe you painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to treat this swelling and pain.

Some patients might need to wear a special brace of the shoulder, which helps the patient not to make any movements that might damage the area even more. A shoulder brace might need to be worn for a couple of days and up to a couple of weeks, all depending on how fast your shoulder is healing. Some patients simply need more time and it is important to give your shoulder joint the time it needs. If you take the brace off too soon and your shoulder still has not healed as it should, you might make a movement, without knowing, that may cause more damage. For example, damage to the nerves and blood vessels or tearing of the ligaments.

If this is the case, a surgery will most likely be required to restore the previous state of not only the bones but the nerves, ligaments, and vessels surrounding the shoulder. After surgery, physical therapy or rehabilitation might be necessary. The goal of this method is to help the patient slowly regain full mobility of the shoulder, without causing any harm.

Although there are many exercises that can be done from the comfort of your home, in severe cases of a shoulder subluxation it is important to have a professional supervise your exercising to make sure that you are not doing anything wrong or pushing it too hard. Exercising too soon, too much or not as you should after the injury might not only prolong your healing time, but it will also increase the risk of getting this condition later on again.

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