Do I have a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder can occur downwards, backwards and completely or partially. It is important to note that the shoulder is one of the most flexible joint in the body which makes it vulnerable to dislocations.

A dislocation arises if the upper arm bone moves out of the socket positioned in the shoulder blade. In most cases, medical care is needed but full recovery only takes a few weeks. If an individual has a dislocated shoulder, future dislocations are likely to occur in the future.

Close look on a dislocated shoulder

dislocated-shoulder

The affected shoulder should be moved slightly if possible. If the individual complains of sudden, intense pain, it indicates a dislocated shoulder.

  • Assess the shoulder to confirm an injury. Check for swelling, bruising or deformity in the area. Generally, the joint is no longer round in appearance and smooth. It is different from the uninjured shoulder. In addition, muscle spasms can be felt and seen.
  • The affected shoulder should be moved slightly if possible. If the individual complains of sudden, intense pain, it indicates a dislocated shoulder. Stop any movement right away to prevent further damage to the joint.
  • Listen for any sound if the bone moves out of the socket right after the injury. Remember that the sound might not always be present even if the joint has been dislocated. It might be hard to initially tell if the joint is broken or if a dislocation is present.
  • Palpate the site of injury to identify for any numbness. A “pins and needles” sensation” can be felt as well. It is likely that there is damage to the blood vessels or nerves if there is loss of sensation or numbness in the joint.
  • An X-ray of the shoulder is taken to exclude a possible bone fracture. The individual should discuss with the doctor any previous activities engaged in before the symptoms arise. Any previous injuries to the shoulder must be discussed to help with a proper diagnosis. In some cases, an MRI or electromyography might be requested to pinpoint the extent of the injury.

While waiting for medical care, it is beneficial to apply an ice pack on the site of injury. The cold lessens the swelling and pain. When ice is applied, it prevents the buildup of fluids and blood around the joint.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on dislocated shoulder is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications, register for a first aid and CPR course with Saskatoon First Aid.

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