Dislocated Shoulders: Not A Do-It-Yourself Project

Our favorite action hero might snap a dislocated shoulder back into place as he emerges from the fray, but research shows that resetting a shoulder without medical assistance can cause problems later on.

Hollywood movies are filled with self-sufficient heroes leaping from impossible heights and emerging miraculously from car wrecks with nary a scratch. If they do wrench an arm out of its socket during their adventures—no problem! One yank and they are good as new.

Although movie hero habits aren’t the best way to handle real life injuries, a number of people opt to try and reset their own dislodged shoulder instead of joining the approximately 175,000 Americans who show up in emergency departments every year with a shoulder dislocation. It may make folks feel tough to take care of these injuries “the old fashioned way,” but data presented in the December 2014 Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shows that do-it-yourself shoulder joint adjustments increase both the risk of future dislocations and the possibility that bones and other joint structures and tissues may be damaged.

Our shoulder joint allows more range of motion than any other joint in the body. The same anatomy that gives this joint such extensive range of motion also makes our shoulder the most unstable. This joint is the most common site for a full or partial dislocation. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the upper arm bone is knocked out of the shoulder socket.

This joint injury is classified as either traumatic or atraumatic:

  • Traumatic: Accidents are the most frequent cause this shoulder injury, accounting for about 96 percent of dislocations. Most occur during contact sports, or when we try to use our hand or arm to break a fall.
  • Atraumatic: These injuries occur gradually over time, when the shoulder bone starts to slip out of the socket. Atraumatic dislocations can cause limited shoulder movement in a number of directions.

Medical treatment for a shoulder dislocation is important because it includes radiographic images before and after the shoulder is reset. Imaging enables your physician to check for related fractures and other injuries in the joint. An orthopedic physician is able to evaluate these shoulder injuries with a thorough understanding of anatomy, relocation maneuvers, immobilization techniques, and rehabilitation programs, which increase the probability of a good outcome and reduce the risk of subsequent dislocation or future corrective surgery.

Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care

From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Robert Anderson

    Robert Anderson, M.D.

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    Amy Beacom, M.D.

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