Not to be confused with a shoulder separation, a dislocated shoulder refers to removal of the ball of the humerus (upper arm bone) from the shoulder socket. Partial dislocation refers to the case in which the upper arm bone is partially in/out of the socket. Dislocation of the shoulder can potentially result in the tearing of ligaments or tendons associated with the joint capsule and, in some cases, nerve damage. Shoulder dislocation is typically accompanied by pain, swelling, numbness, weakness, and bruising. While a dislocation can usually be diagnosed via physical examination, x-rays are often taken to confirm the diagnosis and to rule out the possibility of a bone fracture.
Treatment: Dislocated shoulders are treated by placing the ball of the humerus back into the socket of the scapula (also know as the glenoid fossa). This process, which is known as ‘manipulation and reduction’ (M&R) is usually accompanied by an x-ray to ensure that the reduction didn’t result in a fracture. The arm is then immobilized in a sling for several days, during which time most doctors recommend icing the should 3-4 times/day. Rehabilitaion involves exercises to restore strength and range of motion. Because ligaments may have been stretched or torn, a previously dislocated shoulder is often susceptible to re-injury. Severe or repeated dislocations might require surgical repair to tighten or re-attach stretched or torn ligaments.