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How is a dislocated shoulder treated after the shoulder has been put back in the joint?

The treatment for people who have a their first dislocated shoulder is relatively straightforward. They are usually given a sling in the Emergency Room, and told to wear the sling until they are seen by a doctor for further follow-up. It is usually more comfortable to have the arm in a sling after a dislocation for the first few days because the shoulder is often still very painful, and using the arm can be very difficult. The first step in rehabilitation after this period of immobilization is to regain the normal range of motion of the shoulder and to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles that help to keep the shoulder in the joint.

This program can be supervised by a physical therapist. They would be able to coach you along the road to recovery, increasing your exercises and activity as time goes on and as the pain gradually goes away. In general, it takes six to eight weeks to regain the normal motion of the shoulder, and three months to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

Some common exercises for strengthening the rotator cuff include:

Orthopedic Surgeons have done a lot of research on what is the best way to treat someone who has dislocated their shoulder for the first time. In general, this depends upon what each individual patient expects from their shoulder and how soon they expect to be able to return to the types of activities that may result in another dislocation.

Studies show that about 50% of people who have dislocated their shoulder once will dislocate their shoulder again. The risk of a second dislocation is much higher in people who are very young when they dislocate their shoulder for the first time. For instance, one study showed that 90% of people who were between the ages of 11 and 20 when they dislocated their shoulder for the first time had their shoulder come out of joint again. Because the risk of recurrence cannot be eliminated with physical therapy, treatments vary for different groups of people. Very competitive athletes, soldiers, and construction workers who work at high heights are often offered an operation after their first dislocated shoulder. People who do not do these kinds of activities are usually treated without an operation. This difference in treatment philosophy is based upon the fact that there are some people who may seriously injure themselves if their shoulder slips out of joint again at the wrong time. For instance, an ironworker that works on tall buildings could fall if they were to dislocate their shoulder again while climbing scaffolding. Your doctor will be able to discuss with you whether or not you are someone who should have an operation after your first shoulder dislocation.

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