Determining a Dislocated Shoulder

By editor
March 15, 2016

Dislocated joints are extremely painful, and a dislocated shoulder is no exception. In fact, it’s the most vulnerable joint to experience dislocation. When your arm bone (or humerus) is pulled out of its socket (or glenoid), muscle, cartilage and tissues are stretched and torn, limiting your ability to move your arm at all without tremendous pain. In addition to being unable to move your arm in any direction, there are other signs that you may have dislocated your shoulder:

  • Squaring off. When your shoulder dislocates, the humeral head moves out of its normal place in its socket, causing the shoulder to lose its normal rounded appearance and taking on a “squared off” look instead.
  • Pain and muscle spasms. A dislocated shoulder can prompt the muscles surrounding it to spasm. Your doctor will feel for pulses in the elbow and wrist, as well as determine your arm’s blood and nerve supply.X-rays. The most accurate way to determine a dislocated shoulder is with a simple X-ray. This can also determine if there are any broken bones accompanying the dislocation. If there are fractures, it doesn’t impede the ability to relocate the shoulder with the exception of additional fractures to your humerus or shoulder blade.

Repositioning a dislocated shoulder can be done a number of ways and largely depends on the patient and the situation. Scapular manipulation is when your doctor rotates your shoulder blade in an attempt to reposition the humeral head and relocate the joint. Your doctor may instead choose external rotation, during which your elbow is flexed to 90 degrees, your shoulder is gradually rotated outward, and your shoulder is relocated using gently pushing. In rare cases when a tendon, ligament or piece of broken bone gets caught in the joint, open reduction surgery is the only option.

Are you interested in learning more about the best ways to protect your joints? Contact Napa Vacaville Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics.

You can reach us directly at 707.258.2547 in Napa or 707.446.6206 in Vacaville.  We look forward to meeting you!


Shoulder Injury


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