The normal human shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. Normal shoulders rotate in nearly every angle and in nearly every angle. Unfortunately, for some people, shoulder injuries from trauma or overuse can cause their shoulders to rotate too far, to the point of dislocation, either fully or partially. There are also people with connective tissue disorders who are extremely prone to joint dislocations.
Fortunately, future shoulder dislocations may be preventable by undergoing shoulder surgery. Here's what you need to know if you or a family member has frequent shoulder dislocations.
Shoulder Dislocations & Subluxations
A full displacement of the bone from where it belongs in the joint is called a dislocation. A partial displacement of the bone is called a subluxation or sometimes called a partial dislocation. Subluxations, even though only partially displaced, can be just as painful as a full dislocation. Subluxations can, essentially, slide back into the sockets on their own, but dislocations typically have to be put back in by the individual or someone else. Both types can damage ligaments, cartilage, bones, and nerves.
A shoulder dislocates when the ball-shaped end of the upper arm bone (humerus) is pulled away from the socket of the shoulder blade (scapula). This can occur from a forceful impact or from the inability for a ligament called the glenoid labrum to keep the humerus in place. Reasons for the ligament to be unable to do this job includes damage from overuse, such as occurs in professional swimmers, and connective tissue disorders, such as Ehler's-Danlos syndrome.
Helpful Tips When Surgery Is Recommended
Typically, when a shoulder is damaged from several dislocation or subluxation, it can more readily dislocate in the future unless it is repaired surgically. Surgery may help prevent future dislocations and subluxations. However, it is crucial for your surgeon to obtain MRI imaging scans of your shoulder to see exactly where the damage is in the shoulder. Be sure to remain still during the MRI procedure so the best imaging can be produced.
Depending on the severity of the damage to your shoulder, your surgeon will give you a prognosis regarding the length of time you will need for recovery. As with most surgeries of this nature, you may need to go through physical therapy on a continuing basis after your surgery. Be sure to obtain the physical therapy protocol from your surgeon prior to the surgery so you can schedule appointments with your preferred physical therapist pre-op rather than waiting until post-op. That way, you can start physical therapy as soon as possible post-op rather than waiting for the first available appointment, which could be several weeks or months away.