What is a Shoulder Subluxation and How is it Treated?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The humeral head (arm bone) is the ball and the scapula’s (shoulder blade) glenoid cavity is the socket. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, but it is also the most unstable. Because of this instability, a variety of injuries within the shoulder joint can occur. Shoulder subluxation is one of the most common and is better known as a partial dislocation of the shoulder.

The Board Certified Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Specialists at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates treat a wide variety of shoulder injuries using the latest advancements in both non-surgical and surgical techniques. Below is everything you need to know about Shoulder Subluxation injuries.

Causes. The glenoid labrum is a rim of cartilage around the glenoid cavity which holds the humeral head in the glenoid cavity. A glenoid labrum tear, often the result of overuse or sudden impact to the shoulder, affects the way the head rests in the cavity.

The shoulder partially dislocates when certain movements are performed, such as moving the shoulder across the body. The type of movement that causes a subluxation is dependent on the location of the tear.

Symptoms. Pain presents after a subluxation and a pop may be heard during the initial injury. The shoulder will often relocate on its own, but the shoulder can still feel loose and unstable. Many patients fear another subluxation and carefully guard their shoulder by not performing certain movements or activities.

Diagnosis. Our Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Specialists obtain a history and symptoms are reviewed. A shoulder examination is also performed. An X-ray or MRI are ordered and reviewed so that the location and severity of the tear can be seen.

Nonsurgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatment options are usually prescribed first. The goal of Physical Therapy is to strengthen the shoulder and improve shoulder mechanics so that future dislocations can be avoided and the labrum can heal.

If pain persists, injection therapy may also be used in conjunction with Physical Therapy.

Surgical treatment. For tears that do not heal after Physical Therapy, or are very large, an arthroscopic labrum repair may be recommended. During this procedure, our specialists use small sutures and anchors to repair the tear and reattach the labrum to the bone.

Physical therapy after the procedure helps strengthens the shoulder and expedite recovery.

Making an Appointment

If you experience the symptoms of shoulder subluxation or any other shoulder injury, please make an appointment with one of our Orthopaedic or Sports Medicine Specialists as soon as possible. Delaying a diagnosis may lead to another subluxation or a complete dislocation, which can worsen the injury.

Contact any of our offices throughout Olympia so we can start a customized treatment plan for you and get you back to a Life in Motion!

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