Difference Between Dislocated Shoulder and Separated Shoulder

From swinging the bat at a baseball game to picking up your grandchild, your shoulders take on a lot of responsibility. That’s why when they’re injured, you notice immediately. Minor shoulder injuries can be inconvenient but are typically resolved with ice and rest. But, what if your shoulder injury is more severe? Is it dislocated? Is it separated? What is the difference between the two? And, what can you do to treat your shoulder injury so that you can get back to doing the things you love?

What is a dislocated shoulder?

dislocated shoulder occurs when a fall, sports injury, or blow to the shoulder causes the upper arm bone to pop out of the cup-shaped socket that’s part of your shoulder blade. Because your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body, dislocations can be common. But, despite their frequency, they are still a serious injury that requires prompt medical attention. That’s because once it’s dislocated, your joint may be unstable and prone to repeat injury.

Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder

While any injury to your shoulder may produce pain and discomfort, your shoulder being dislocated will be more intense. In some cases, a dislocated shoulder can cause numbness, weakness, or tingling near the injury — such as in the neck or arm. Your shoulder muscle may spasm and increase the intensity of your pain. But, the surest signs of a dislocated shoulder include:

  • A visibly deformed or out-of-place shoulder
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Intense pain
  • Inability to move the joint

Treatment Options for a Dislocated Shoulder

If you suspect your shoulder is dislocated, it’s important that you minimize shoulder movement as much as possible. Use a splint or sling on the shoulder joint in its current position and ice your shoulder while seeking and waiting for medical attention. It’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment so that you can get your shoulder put back into place before the muscles start healing.

You’ll be given a mild sedative, and then the doctor will pop your shoulder joint back into the cup-shaped pocket. In some cases — especially for those who are adolescent athletes in high-intensity sports where repeat injuries are common — surgical repair may be necessary. Your doctor will talk through your options and determine the best treatment plan.

What is a separated shoulder?

A blow or fall directly to your shoulder may cause the ligaments that hold your collarbone to your shoulder blade to separate. In mild cases, this involves some ligament stretching, but for severe injuries, the ligaments can tear. Usually, separated shoulders are less severe injuries than dislocated shoulders — but left untreated, they can cause long-term issues.

Symptoms of a Separated Shoulder

While a dislocated shoulder typically produces intense or severe pain, a separated shoulder is a little milder — but still uncomfortable. The most common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Shoulder or arm weakness
  • Shoulder bruising or swelling
  • Limited shoulder movement
  • A bump and swelling at the top of the shoulder

Treatment Options for a Separated Shoulder

Most people can treat a separated shoulder with ice, rest, and pain relievers. Depending on the severity of your injury, you’ll regain full shoulder function with a few weeks of the injury. But, if you have persistent tenderness or pain near the end of your collarbone, you should visit an orthopedic walk-in clinic to make sure it’s not a sign of something more urgent.

How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

Shoulder injuries — especially in contact sports — are fairly common, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be prevented. To avoid risks of dislocating your shoulder or tearing the ligaments, you should:

  • Wear protective gear while playing contact or high-intensity sports
  • Exercise regularly to maintain strength and flexibility
  • Allow for old injuries to fully heal
  • Avoid falling

Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today

At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you suffer from shoulder pain and it’s making your life uncomfortable, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love. With six convenient locations, we provide quality orthopedic care and interventional pain management services to patients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Palm Coast, New Smyrna Beach, and beyond.

Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.

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