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A dislocated shoulder is an extremely painful injury that involves the upper arm coming out of the cup-shaped socket on the shoulder blade. You normally cannot move your affected arm until it pops back into the socket, which is when the intense pain from the injury commences. Sometimes the arm or shoulder muscles will begin twitching from the injury, leading to intense pain. Unfortunately, dislocating your shoulder can make you more likely to suffer more shoulder injuries in the future.
If you suspect that you have dislocated your shoulder, do not attempt to pop the joint back into place. You should instead stabilize the joint with a makeshift splint until you can see a doctor. Attempting to realign the shoulder joint can injure the blood vessels, muscles, nerves or ligaments, creating even more problems. You should also apply ice to the shoulder and upper arm, helping slow any internal bleeding and reduce swelling in the area.
You can dislocate your shoulder in any direction it can move, and the dislocation can be either partial or complete. People who play contact sports, participate in gymnastics, snow skiing, soccer or football, volleyball or snowboarding are likely to dislocate their shoulder. Shoulder dislocations are also common in car accidents or from slip and fall injuries around the home. For a reason not entirely understood, men are more prone to shoulder dislocations than women, particularly men in their late teens or twenties.
Doctors have several tools at their disposal to not only confirm that your shoulder has been dislocated, but to also examine the extent of your injury. An x-ray gives doctors a clear view of the effected bones, allowing them to see if any have been broken as a result of the injury. An EMG or electromyography tests the electrical activity in the arm and shoulder’s muscles, helping to detect any nerve damage from the shoulder dislocation. An MRI allows doctors to get an inside view of any soft tissue damage to the shoulder or arm.
To remedy a dislocated shoulder, a doctor might give you a muscle relaxant or mild sedative before gently manipulating the shoulder bones back together. Depending on the extent of your injury, a doctor might place your arm in a specialized sling or splint to limit your shoulder’s mobility, helping with pain and the recovery process. You might also be given a prescription for a painkiller and muscle relaxant to help you stay comfortable while your body mends itself.
After several weeks of recovery, the doctor might then order you to a physical therapist to help you regain full movement and strengthen the joint against future injury. People who experience repeat should dislocations might need to undergo surgery to correct the problem.
Written by Steven Symes
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