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What is a dislocated shoulder?

When the shoulder slips out of joint and the ball of the humerus is no longer resting in the socket of the scapula the joint is said to be "dislocated." This type of dislocated shoulder, which is specifically called a gleno-humeral dislocation, is very different from a shoulder separation, which usually refers to an injury to the acromio-clavicular joint. It is also different from a "subluxation," where the joint slips partially out of joint, and then returns back to the joint on its own. A true dislocated shoulder is a very painful experience. The muscles that move the shoulder tighten up and go into spasm after the shoulder has been dislocated. These muscle spasms prevent the shoulder from going back into joint easily, and a doctor or a trained medical worker usually has to move the shoulder in order to get it to go back into the joint. This procedure is called a reduction maneuver.

dislocated shoulder

Just two ways in which a dislocated shoulder was put back into joint in the past...


Dislocated shoulder

Today, with medicines to relax the muscles, it is much easier for trained medical workers to put the joint back in place.

There are several different reduction maneuvers that doctors use to put the shoulder back in the joint, and they are usually done after medications have been given to relieve pain and relax the muscles. This is usually done in an Emergency Room or an Urgent Care Clinic. Once the shoulder is back in the joint, and an x-ray has been taken that shows that the shoulder is again in its normal position, most patients are then referred to an orthopedic surgeon for further care, rehabilitation and advice on what to do next.

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