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Chiropractic and Shoulder Dislocation



What is a shoulder dislocation?

A shoulder dislocation is an injury that occurs when the top of the arm bone (humerus) loses contact with the socket of the shoulder blade (scapula).


How does a shoulder dislocation happen?

A shoulder dislocation generally occurs after an injury such as a fall or a sports-related injury.

About 95% of the time, when the shoulder dislocates, the top of the humerus is sitting in front of the socket in the shoulder blade - an anterior dislocation.

In less than 5% of cases, the top of the humerus is behind the socket - a posterior dislocation. Posterior dislocations are uncommon, and are usually seen after injuries after electrocution or after a seizure.


What happens when you sustain a shoulder dislocation?

The shoulder joint is made of three bones which come together at one place. The arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle) all meet up at the top of the shoulder.

A dislocation occurs when there is an injury to the joint between the humerus and scapula. The joint between the humerus and scapula, also called the gleno-humeral joint, is a ball-and-socket joint - the ball is on the top of the humerus, and this fits into a socket of the shoulder blade called the glenoid.

This joint is incredible because it allows us to move our shoulder though an amazing arc of motion - no joint in the body allows more motion than the gleno-humeral joint.

Unfortunately, by allowing this wide range of motion, the shoulder is not as stable as other joints. Because of this, shoulder dislocations are not uncommon injuries.


What are the symptoms of a shoulder dislocation?

Patients with a shoulder dislocation are usually in significant pain. They know something is wrong, but may not know they have sustained a shoulder dislocation.

Symptoms of shoulder dislocation include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Arm held at the side, usually slightly away from the body with the forearm turned outward
  • Loss of the normal rounded contour of the deltoid muscle (step defect).

Chiropractors are taught to reduce shoulder dislocations. There are different maneuvers that can be used.

However, there is always a risk for complications to the nerve and blood supply to the arm and extreme caution must be taken.

The sooner the dislocation is reduced the better the recovery.


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