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Shoulder Subluxation

February 26, 2010


What is a shoulder subluxation?
How does it occur?
What are the symptoms?
How is it diagnosed?
What is the treatment?
When can I return to my sport or activity?

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What is a shoulder subluxation?
A shoulder subluxation is a temporary, partial dislocation of the shoulder joint. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) is held into the socket (gleniod) of the shoulder blade (scapula) by a group of ligaments.

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How does it occur?
A shoulder subluxation can occur from falls onto your outstretched arm, direct blows to our shoulder, or having your arm forced into an awkward position. If you have had a previous injury or if your shoulder ligaments are naturally loose you may sublux your shoulder doing simple activities like throwing or putting on a shirt or jacket.

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What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of a shoulder subluxation include:
– The feeling that your shoulder has gone  in and out of joint
– Looseness in your shoulder
– Pain, weakness, or numbness in your shoulder or arm

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How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Many times the diagnosis of a shoulder subluxation is made by your description of injury. When your doctor examines you they may find that your shoulder is loose and may partially slip out of joint during the exam. Your doctor may order x-rays to see if you have had any fractures.

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What is the treatment?
The pain from a shoulder subluxation is treated with ice packs for 20 to 30 minutes 3 to 4 times a day. You may take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. You may need to avoid painful activities until the pain improves. The most important treatment for the looseness in the shoulder that causes a syubluxation is shoulder strengthen exercises. Shoulders that continue to sublux and cause painful symptoms may require surgery to correct the joint looseness.

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When can I return to my sport or activity?
The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon, you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your sport or activity determined by how soon your shoulder recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred. You may safely return to your sport or activity when:
– Your injured shoulder has full range of motion without pain
– Your injured shoulder has regained normal strength compared to the uninjured shoulder.
In throwing sports, you must gradually build your tolerance to throwing. This means you should start with gently tossing and gradually throw harder.

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