Though it has a difficult name, a “shoulder subluxation” is merely another term for a type of dislocation. However, shoulder subluxation concerns only a partial movement of the humerus away from its proper position in the socket of the shoulder; this is opposed to a true dislocation, where the humerus completely exits the joint that allows the shoulder to move freely. Subluxations can be painful and may occur even in otherwise fit and healthy individuals. In fact, many athletes can attest to the experience firsthand. Subluxations are generally not a cause for serious concern except in chronic cases where partial dislocations reoccur with some frequency.
What causes a shoulder subluxation?
Consider the shoulder joint, commonly known as a “ball and socket” type due to the way the humerus (the upper arm bone that connects at the elbow to the radius and ulna) interacts with the scapula or shoulder blade. The rounded upper portion of the humerus rotates within its socket. However, the humerus is larger than the socket into which it fits. As a result, injury can easily “pop” the humerus slightly out of its correct position, resulting in subluxation.
Subluxation has many causes, but it is often directly linked to an injury. As mentioned, sports players often encounter these partial dislocations when their activities require active and repetitive movements, such as the pitching the baseball or the overhead strokes in some swimming styles. The repeated motion begin to draw the joint out of alignment. Falling on the shoulder or receiving a jarring impact can also cause subluxation. In some cases, prior shoulder dislocations or a general disorder affecting one’s ligaments can make subluxation events more likely.
Recognizing signs and symptoms of a shoulder subluxation.
Pain and tenderness are the primary symptoms, with a reduced range of motion often following. In addition, if you experience the shoulder joint popping up, it may be caused by shoulder subluxation. A general feeling of weakness can also indicate that the shoulder has gone out of joint. The subluxation may not be apparent immediately obvious, but symptoms may manifest later.
Options for treatment of a shoulder subluxation.
Generally, subluxations self-correct when individuals rest the arm and avoid the motions that led to the injury. Ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication, and rest are all indicated as reliable treatment choices. In some cases, physical therapy can help aid in reducing discomfort and speeding recovery time. However, for repetitive subluxation events, or when a medical examination concludes weak ligaments may be the cause, a surgical procedure to correct the issue can be an option. Typically, those who have experienced other shoulder injuries, particularly severe problems such as a torn rotator cuff, will require a closer look. If you suspect that your shoulder joint is not in its best health, speak to a doctor today to explore your options.