A Look into Shoulder Subluxation
During high school there was this student that I thought was extraordinary. She could willingly dislocate her shoulder and then put it back in place. Her formula was quite simple, place both hands behind her back and hold them together, pull them upwards towards her head, and then you’d hear a slight pop in the shoulder. This way, the hands would move over her head easily. The funny thing is that after that stunt her shoulders would simply slip back in place. Sure that stunt won her many fans but I wouldn’t have tried it.
But by the time we were in our last year of high school, she frequently complained of pain in left shoulder. Upon visiting the doctor, she found out that she had loose ligaments in her shoulder joint and through physiotherapy, was able to regain full shoulder strength.
After finding out what condition she had, I understood that it was the reason why her shoulder was so flexible. However, I knew that she couldn’t possibly completely dislocate her shoulder joint and walk away smiling. So I looked into what she was doing.
Rather than dislocate her shoulder joint, what was actually happening is shoulder subluxation. It’s quite similar to shoulder dislocation but in this case it’s partial and temporary.
Subluxation is usually caused by instability of the shoulder joint. This instability can be caused by different factors including the following.
First, it can be caused by general looseness of the ligaments connecting joints. It’s usually genetic and people with this condition are often termed as double jointed. This was the case in my schoolmate.
Second, it can be caused by direct trauma to the shoulder joint. This can be caused by falling onto an outstretched arm, abnormal twisting of the shoulder joint and a direct blow to the shoulder joint.
Third, a previous injury to the shoulder that resulted in loosening of the shoulder ligaments can also cause shoulder instability. In such instances, subluxation can occur during normal activities such as lifting a load.
Some of the symptoms associated to subluxation of the shoulder include the following.
- A feeling that the shoulder has gone out of place and then returns to place. This is usually accompanied by a popping sound.
- Weakness and numbness in the affected arm.
- Shoulder instability.
- Pain ranging in severity during subluxation.
Treating subluxation involves relieving pain and returning the shoulder joint back to stability. The following procedures are carried out.
The first thing to do is to apply ice to the shoulder joint. This helps to relieve pain, reduce swelling and inflammation. Ice should be applied for a couple of minutes at a time. Besides using ice, you can also take over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain.
The next thing to do is to rest the shoulder joint. Avoid activities which would aggravate the pain or cause further instability. Rest also helps to promote the healing process. Wearing a shoulder strap will help.
Third, exercise the shoulder joint to strengthen it. The exercises however be done under the direction of a physiotherapist to prevent further injury.