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What Are the Different Types of Dislocated Shoulder Treatment?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dislocated shoulder treatment should always involve a doctor's care. The doctor will perform a closed reduction, which is a manipulation of the shoulder joint to put it back in its proper place. Patients will then need to rest the area, immobilize it, and apply ice. Physical therapy can help to restore range of motion to the joint once it begins to heal. Less commonly, a surgeon may need to operate on the joint if the doctor is unable to reposition the shoulder.

Patients should never attempt to put the shoulder joint back in place by themselves. If they suspect they have a dislocated shoulder, they should see a doctor immediately. This type of injury can come with other complications that require more extensive treatment, such as damage to the tendons, ligaments, or blood vessels, as well as the nerves in that area.

After diagnosing a person with this condition, the doctor will likely begin dislocated shoulder treatment by administering a sedative or a muscle relaxant. This drug will help alleviate pain while the joint is being manipulated. Once the medicine takes effect, the doctor will attempt a closed reduction to physically push the shoulder bones into their proper alignment. If this dislocated shoulder treatment is successful, the patient will typically notice an almost immediate reduction of severe pain.

The patient will likely go home with a prescription for a muscle relaxant or a pain reliever to help alleviate discomfort. Dosing instructions should be carefully followed. A sling or bracing device will also be prescribed to the patient. He will need to keep the joint immobilized for several weeks to allow it to heal.

Dislocated shoulder treatment also involves resting. It is essential that the patient refrain from engaging in strenuous activities, especially the activity that caused the dislocation. Overhead lifting and heavy lifting must be avoided until healing is well underway. When the pain begins to subside, patients should switch from stronger pain medications to over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin.

Patients should also apply ice and heat to the area. Ice should be applied for 15 minutes every two to three hours for the first two days. They may then apply a heating pad to the shoulder joint for no longer than 20 minutes. This helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

If the patient has suffered from additional complications, such as damage to the surrounding nerves, tendons, or ligaments, he will likely need surgery. This is called an open reduction. It allows the surgeon greater access to properly reposition the bones and tighten the tendons, if needed.

Once the patient begins to heal, the next step in dislocated shoulder treatment involves physical therapy. He will work on a rehabilitation program to improve range of motion, stability, and strength to the joint. The instructions of the physical therapist should be carefully followed. Patients who attempt too much activity too quickly may be apt to dislocate their shoulders again.

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