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Dislocated Shoulder Symptoms & How to Treat Shoulder Pain

Read Time: 6 Minutes

An experienced chiropractor knows precisely how to fix a dislocated shoulder, which is a fairly common condition, particularly among athletes. While you may be tempted to try to pop it back in yourself if you're suffering from dislocated shoulder symptoms, this can cause further damage to the area. One of the main reasons for this is that what you believe may be a dislocation may actually be a subluxation. It's essential to know the difference between a subluxation vs. dislocation and to seek medical care for the condition.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we have the pain and injury experts you need to correctly identify the injury and get you on the path to recovery. Whether you're an athlete who needs to get back in the game, an individual who needs to return to work, or are looking to relieve shoulder pain of any kind, we're the chiropractors that countless South Florida residents turn to for help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Keep reading to learn more about how to fix a dislocated shoulder, dislocated shoulder symptoms, and the difference between a subluxation vs. dislocation.

The Difference between Subluxation & Dislocation

It can be hard to tell whether you have a subluxation or a complete dislocation when suffering a shoulder injury, as many of the symptoms are the same. However, these are two separate injuries that may require different treatment methods to ensure a quick recovery. Let's look at the differences between the two injuries.

A shoulder subluxation occurs when there is an incomplete dislocation of the shoulder joint. With a subluxation, the adjacent joint bones remain touching each other but move to an improper alignment. There's no doubt that this injury is painful, but luckily it's less severe than a total dislocation.

On the other hand, a shoulder dislocation occurs when the joint bones suffer a complete separation. The bones in your upper arm no longer touch the bone in your shoulder socket, and the injury may require more extensive treatment with a longer recovery time. Both injuries affect the ligaments and bones in the area.

There are several different types of shoulder subluxation, while a shoulder dislocation has just one. Types of shoulder subluxations include:

  • Anterior Subluxation– This type of subluxation is the most common. It's a forward subluxation that's localized and only affects the shoulder ligaments, while the bones remain unaffected.
  • Posterior Subluxation– A posterior subluxation, also known as a backward subluxation, is particularly rare. It's often the result of an injury or trauma. These subluxations are common in athletes, those who perform manual labor, or they can occur after a slip and fall.
  • Inferior Subluxation – This is a downward subluxation and is also a rare condition. In this case, the joint is displaced in a downward position and is also likely to occur after trauma or injury.

Several complications can occur when a shoulder injury goes untreated. These complications can include further damage to the surrounding nerves and blood vessels, greater risk for repeated subluxations and dislocations in the future, joint fractures, and even arthritis in the shoulder joint.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we're experienced in identifying and treating both subluxations of the shoulder as well as complete shoulder dislocations. Since it can be challenging to tell which injury you have based on symptoms alone, it's essential to seek a professional evaluation as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Subluxated & Dislocated Shoulders

The symptoms of a subluxation vs. dislocation are very similar, which is what leads many people to believe they have one injury or the other. For this reason, making an office visit is essential. It's the only sure way to receive a proper diagnosis and, therefore, the appropriate treatment.

Symptoms of a shoulder subluxation and dislocation include:

  • Sudden shoulder joint pain, particularly after a swift movement or impact
  • Swelling and tenderness in the area
  • Deformity in the area, or the appearance of a "sagging" shoulder and arm
  • Loss of movement or range of motion in the affected shoulder and arm
  • Bruising in the area of the injury
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in the shoulder that can also run down the arm

The symptoms of a dislocation or subluxation typically do not resolve on their own and require medical intervention. If you notice any of these signs and symptoms following an injury, don't wait. Get medical care as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the area. When left untreated, symptoms may worsen, and the pain will likely increase.

How a Chiropractor Can Help Shoulder Subluxations & Dislocations

The first step in receiving help for either a shoulder subluxation or complete dislocation is to seek professional care and an evaluation. During this process, a chiropractor will perform a physical exam of the area. They may test the range of motion in the area, evaluate the positioning of your shoulder blade and upper arm, and ask about your level of pain.

During this initial consultation, your chiropractor will also ask questions about the occurrence of the injury. They will likely inquire about how the injury occurred, such as whether you were playing sports, performing work around the house, or were involved in an accident.

These questions can help identify which type of subluxation you have or whether you're suffering from a complete dislocation. Sometimes, more advanced imaging may be required for a proper diagnosis. Imaging can include X-rays or an MRI, which can provide a more comprehensive look at the positioning of your soft tissue and bones.

Once a chiropractor correctly identifies the injury, they can begin developing an individualized treatment plan to aid in your recovery.

Chiropractic Techniques to Treat Shoulder Injuries

There are numerous chiropractic treatment methods that can aid in the recovery of a shoulder injury. Knowing how to fix a dislocated shoulder, as well as a subluxation, is one of our specialties. Your treatment plan will likely include more than one treatment method, and recovery will take place over the course of weeks or months, depending on the severity of the injury. Receiving the proper care ensures that you're able to heal as best as possible, enabling you to return to your daily life without shoulder pain.

  • Manual Adjustments: A manual adjustment will include your chiropractor physically moving the bones in your upper arm and shoulder back into proper alignment. You may hear a "pop" or experience a "cracking" feeling during this process. Sometimes, a manual adjustment of a shoulder injury is painful, but patients often feel great relief within minutes of the procedure.
  • Instrument-Assisted Treatment: Your chiropractor may conduct one or more instrument-assisted treatment therapies that target your shoulder ligaments due to the soft tissue involved in shoulder dislocations and subluxations. These therapies may include electrical stimulation (E-stim), ultrasound therapy, and more.
  • Physical Rehabilitation: Often, shoulder dislocations, and subluxations require ongoing physical rehabilitation to ensure a complete recovery. During this process, a professional will guide you through a series of light exercises and stretches to help strengthen the ligaments in your shoulder and help you regain a good range of motion.
  • At-Home Care: In addition to office visits, your chiropractor will advise you on ways to continue your recovery and manage pain at home between appointments. Recommendations are likely to include rest, over-the-counter medication, or applying hot and cold compresses to the area. With the proper combination of in-person treatment and at-home care, you can be well on the way to a full recovery as quickly as possible.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you're experiencing dislocated shoulder symptoms and want to know how to fix a dislocated shoulder, schedule an appointment at ChiroCare of Florida today. Find a ChiroCare of Florida location near you and call to schedule a consultation.

With convenient extended evening hours, and weekend appointments available by request, you don't have to delay treatment any longer. We're here to help identify a shoulder subluxation vs. dislocation, create a treatment plan that meets your needs, and enable you to get back to living a pain-free life. Schedule an appointment as soon as you recognize symptoms of dislocated shoulder to ensure the best recovery possible and minimize the risk of complications in the future.

Call (877) 388-2165 today.

About the Author:
Dr. Steven Schwartz
Raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Dr. Steven Schwartz is a major advocate for the South Florida community. CEO of ChiroCare of Florida, Dr. Schwartz has grown the group from one facility to 11. Whether he’s treating patients or volunteering for community service, Dr. Schwartz’s long-term goal is to ensure that each and every patient can experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference.
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