Shoulder dislocations can be caused by a variety of jarring motions while the shoulder is in an unusual position. From automobile accidents to falls and sports collisions, many everyday situations can easily result in this kind of injury. For hyper-flexible individuals, even a routine movement such as a sneeze can cause a shoulder dislocation.
The reason this injury is as common as it is, is that the shoulder is a comparatively unstable joint. The top of the upper arm bone, the humerus, is shaped like a ball that fits loosely into the shallow scapula. The ball part of the humerus is connected to the socket-shaped scapula by several muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue structures, but there is still quite a bit of freedom of movement.
We appreciate this freedom, of course, as it allows us to move our arms in all directions. Because of it, we can throw a baseball, hang from a pull-up bar, and reach behind our backs to scratch an itch. At the same time, the shoulder joint’s freedom of motion also contributes to its instability.
The typical shoulder dislocation occurs when the humerus bone spills forward, or anteriorly, out of the joint. If you picture a baseball pitcher and the way he throws his arm forward as he pitches, you’ll see the kind of motion that can easily lead to shoulder dislocation.
For those prone to shoulder dislocation, strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint can help reduce the chances of future dislocations. Of course, you’ll want to consult with your physician before beginning exercise after an injury. During the early phases of rehabilitation, placing your arm in extreme positions can cause further injury.
You’ll want to start with isometric exercises, such as PhysioDC’s Shoulder Exercise #10, seen below, that doesn’t require the shoulder itself to move.
The majority of orthopedic surgeons agree that people suffering from multiple shoulder dislocations within a few years require surgery. Even still, they would recommend such drastic measures only after conservative management has been attempted. Because dislocations typically involve a torn “labrum,” surgical repair may be the only option for some patients.
The labrum is a ring made of cartilage surrounding the socket. It provides stability to the joint, and once it is torn, stability is greatly compromised. As a result, active motions can cause chronic pain, and strengthened muscles surrounding the joint will do little to lessen the pain. The only way for the labrum to be repaired is through surgery. After surgery, full recovery and return to normal functionality requires a great deal of time and patience.
Even if you think surgery may be the only way to resolve your shoulder dislocation issues, a conservative approach that includes strength training is the best way to start.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
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