Shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint and is very mobile as it moves in all directions. But, because it is free moving and is attached only by ligaments and tissues, it is an unstable joint and can get dislocated easily. When the ball of the arm bone dislodges from the socket of the shoulder bone, it causes dislocation of the shoulder.
There are two types of shoulder dislocations
Anterior dislocations happen when a person falls on an outstretched hand. The weight of the body falling on the arm can wrench the arm joint, and the shoulder rotates away from the body, causing a dislocation.
Posterior dislocations are not as common and occur sometimes,like during an epileptic fit, and most often in the elderly.
Causes of shoulder dislocation
• Injury sports – Shoulder dislocations are common in people who play contact sports like football, basketball, volleyball etc.
• Accidental fall / road traffic accident – Shoulder dislocations can occur during a fall where a person lands awkwardly on the arm or from a direct blow to the shoulder in an accident.
• Weakening of ligaments and tissues in elderly – There is gradual weakening of the ligaments and cartilage that support the shoulder in the elderly.Even a small amount of trauma (usually a fall on an outstretched hand) is enough to dislocate the shoulder in seniors.
The doctor will first do a physical examination which will assess the blood and nerve supply to the arm. This is followed by an X-Ray, a scan or both.This is done to ensure that there are no fractures associated with the dislocation.
The patient’s medical history and the circumstances leading to the dislocation will be noted. It is important for the doctor to know if this is the first time the shoulder is dislocated or it has happened before.
Treatment of a dislocated shoulder
This procedure helps fix the ball of your upper arm back into the socket. This may sometimes be done under general anaesthesia as it can be painful. Otherwise you may be given medication to relieve the pain and relax the shoulder muscles.
You may be asked to wear a sling or another support device to keep your shoulder in place. The length of time could be from a few days to several weeks, depending on the speed of recovery.
After the shoulder is fixed and the pain and swelling have reduced, you will have to start exercises to strengthen the muscles and to improve your range of motion.
In repeated shoulder dislocations: Surgery will be the option from preventing further episodes of dislocation. Visit orthopedic surgeon for further clarification.