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Recurrent Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation refers to the ball of the shoulder coming displaced from the socket. A complete dislocation happens when the ball comes fully out of the socket, while a partial dislocation happens when the ball slips only partially out then goes back in again. This often happens – especially for athletes – as a result of a collision or fall. And because the shoulder is the least stable and most mobile of all the joints in the body, it is also the most vulnerable to dislocation.

Shoulder dislocations are grouped on the basis of the direction in which the ball comes out of the socket. The most common types of dislocations for athletes are anterior, posterior, and inferior dislocations. An anterior dislocation occurs when the ball dislocates to the front of the socket. A posterior dislocation occurs when the ball dislocates to the back of the socket. And an inferior dislocation occurs when the ball dislocates below the socket. In a small number of patients, the shoulder joint can dislocate without a prior history of injury or strain. These patients often experience multidirectional instability, which means the shoulder ball may dislocate to the front, back, or bottom of the shoulder.

The Dangers of Recurrent Dislocation

Recurrent dislocation refers to a patient experiencing repeated dislocations of the same shoulder joint. When this happens a patient is said to have chronic shoulder instability. This instability may come from a traumatic dislocation (dislocation due to an impact such as a fall or collision). It may also come from a gradual stretching of the joint due to a repetitive injury or movement. In some cases it can also come from a generalize looseness of ligaments in the shoulder.

Recurrent Dislocation Diagnosis and Treatment

Patients with a recurring dislocation are those who have experienced repeated episodes of dislocation, often after injury. This dislocation may be either partial or complete. The doctor will diagnose this based on the patient’s history and physical symptoms. When the dislocation is partial, shoulder instability may only show as episodes of discomfort or pain. Certain tests can also be performed to help identify recurrent shoulder dislocations. These include X-ray, MRI, and CT scan.

When a shoulder is dislocated for the first time it is treated by manipulating ball back in to the joint. Once the shoulder is returned to the joint, the arm is immobilized for 3-6 weeks with a sling. Athletes who use the shoulder frequently and at high intensity may require surgery after the first dislocation to reduce the risk of chronic instability in the future.

Recurrent shoulder dislocations can be treated in a variety of ways. Non-surgical treatment is used primarily for those with a sedentary lifestyle and are able to restrict movement. For athletes, however, the most common treatment is surgery. There are several types of surgery used for recurrent shoulder dislocation. Your doctor will discuss the specifics of each procedure when the need arises. After surgery, the arm is immobilized in a sling for a period of 3-6 weeks to allow it to heal. Generally, athletes will take several months to return to full pre-operative status. The exact amount of time depends on the specific activities involved.

If you are suffering from recurrent shoulder dislocation, contact our office today for a consultation. You can call us at 310.736.2793 or send us an email.

Next, learn some simple ways to prevent exercise-related injuries.

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The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician's judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.