5 Myths About Dislocated Shoulders and the Real Truth

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Being hit from behind in a lively sports game or falling onto an outstretched arm can both result in a dislocated shoulder. The movies portray actors who treat their shoulders by ramming it against a wall to pop it back into place before running back into action. Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding this injury, which is common seen by an orthopaedic surgeon. Here are the myths & facts in order to heal properly after a shoulder dislocation.

Myth 1: Dislocated and separated shoulders are the same thing.

Though they sound similar, they are actually very different things. A shoulder that has been dislocated has been popped out of its socket. This condition can cause the tissue and nerves that surround the joint to be damaged. A separated shoulder doesn’t affect the actual shoulder joint; instead the ligaments that attach the collarbone to the shoulder blade become torn as a result of an injury, which causes pressure on the skin near the shoulder.

Myth 2: You can pop your shoulder back into place by pushing against a hard surface.

Though this move is commonly seen in sitcoms, it’s almost impossible to relocate a shoulder by oneself. In most cases, emergency help should be sought. However, in a situation where waiting for help can lead to more damage (i.e. a bad fall while hiking), having a friend relocate a shoulder before seeing an orthopaedic surgeon is preferable. Always place the arm that has been dislocated in a sling, apply ice and take painkillers to reduce pain and inflammation. Because fractures sometimes occur when the shoulder is dislocated, it’s important to keep the arm still until a visit to the orthopaedic surgeon can take place. Sometimes these fractures occur because of prior attempts to relocate the shoulder, so always have the relocation done by an experienced professional.

Myth 3: A shoulder that has been dislocated won’t dislocate again.

Unfortunately, almost 50% of people who dislocate their shoulder once have a recurrence. Over 90% have a recurrence if dislocated twice. In males who dislocate their shoulder between the ages of 14 to 20, almost all have a recurrence of the injury. If the shoulder has been dislocated a few times, it will be necessary to have surgery in order to repair the damaged nerves and tissue. It would be best to have preventive surgery done before this scenario occurs.

Myth 4: The main symptom of a shoulder that has been dislocated is a floppy arm.

The main symptom is actually pain. Even the slightest movement in a shoulder that has been dislocated from its joint will result in severe pain. The arm will also be extremely difficult to move and may become numb or tingly. When touched from the side, the shoulder will feel soft, as though the underlying bone has gone.

Myth 5:Most people dislocate their shoulders sometime during their life.

In reality, only one to two percent of people dislocate their shoulders in their life. Most of these cases occur in males aged 20 to 30. Though contact sports are often the cause, elderly women are also prone to dislocating their shoulders as a result of falling.

Getting professional care and applying basic first aid are the first things to do when a dislocated shoulder is suspected. Though relatively rare, it’s a good idea to always be prepared when playing sports in case an injury does occur.