Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Shoulder Dislocation Overview

What is a shoulder dislocation?
A person with a shoulder dislocation has abnormal alignment of the humerus and the scapula at the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A depression in the scapula, known as the glenoid, provides the socket for the top of the humerus. In an anterior shoulder dislocation, the top of the humerus lies in front of the scapula. In a posterior shoulder dislocation, the top of the humerus lies behind the scapula. A shoulder dislocation is caused by a force that bends or twists the shoulder beyond the normal range of motion. The shoulder is the most commonly dislocated joint.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder dislocation?
The most common symptom of a shoulder dislocation includes severe shoulder pain and a deformed shoulder. The shoulder may be bruised, swollen, and tender. Additional symptoms of a shoulder dislocation may include arm weakness and arm numbness.

How does the doctor treat a shoulder dislocation?
Treatment for a shoulder dislocation includes restoring the normal position of the bones. In some cases, surgery may be required. Additional treatment for shoulder dislocation includes rest, a sling, cold compresses, physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or narcotic pain medications.

Continue to Shoulder Dislocation Incidence

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Shoulder Dislocation References
  1. Ameh V, Crane S. Nerve injury following shoulder dislocation: the emergency physician's perspective. Eur J Emerg Med. 2006 Aug;13(4):233-5. [16816589]
  2. Emond M, Le Sage N, Lavoie A, Rochette L. Clinical factors predicting fractures associated with an anterior shoulder dislocation. Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Aug;11(8):853-8. [15289192]
  3. Good CR, MacGillivray JD. Traumatic shoulder dislocation in the adolescent athlete: advances in surgical treatment. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2005 Feb;17(1):25-9. [15659959]
  4. Handoll HH, Almaiyah MA, Rangan A. Surgical versus non-surgical treatment for acute anterior shoulder dislocation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD004325. [14974064]
  5. Safran MR. Nerve injury about the shoulder in athletes, part 1: suprascapular nerve and axillary nerve. Am J Sports Med. 2004 Apr-May;32(3):803-19. [15090401]
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