Shoulder Subluxation: Definition, Causes, and Treatment

Your shoulder is designed for high flexibility, but that often makes it easy to injure. While a complete dislocation is easy to identify, a shoulder subluxation may be more subtle. If you have a subluxation, there may be no visible signs of it. However, a subluxation could still present significant problems. Here is more information on shoulder subluxation and when to see an orthopedic surgeon.

What Is a Shoulder Subluxation?

A shoulder subluxation is similar to a dislocation. However, instead of complete separation from the joint, there's only a partial one. Often, the shoulder can be pushed back into the joint with minimal effort. But even if the shoulder can move back into place, you could still suffer muscle and ligament damage.

What Are the Signs of Shoulder Subluxation?

While most subluxation cases don't have visible signs, sometimes the bone is visibly protruding under the skin. However, you may experience pain and restricted movement when the joint is not aligned. The pain often increases with movement. Numbness running down the arm is another possible symptom.

What Causes Shoulder Subluxation?

The shoulder socket is shallow, so any hard hit or fall on the joint can cause a subluxation. Subluxation is common in contact sports as well as from falls and accidents. You can also get the condition if you twist the shoulder unnaturally. For example, you can cause this problem if you use a weight machine or weight-bearing exercise that forces your arms too far back.

What Treatments Are Available for Shoulder Subluxation?

Have an orthopedic physician examine your shoulder to ensure you don't have a full dislocation or fracture.  If the joint has returned to a normal position, then the doctor may prescribe medication and a sling to encourage healing. However, if you have damage to other tissues, then you may need surgery if those issues don't heal on their own.

What Helps Prevent Future Shoulder Subluxation?

Shoulder subluxation could repeat itself under the same conditions. The best way to protect your shoulder from repeat problems is to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around it. This keeps the shoulder from moving inappropriately when under stress. You may wish to engage in physical therapy to improve shoulder stability after your subluxation heals.

Your shoulder is an important joint you must keep in good condition. When something is wrong with it, your quality of life could suffer. Fortunately, an orthopedic physician and surgeon can help you with your shoulder problems. If you injure your shoulder or if any of your joints have problems, then seek help right away.