Non-Surgical Therapies for a Dislocated Shoulder

The shoulder has the widest range of motion of all your joints, making it very susceptible to dislocation. A strong force such as a car crash or an extreme rotation while playing football can cause the shoulder to literally pop out of its socket, leading to extreme pain and damage to ligaments and blood vessels.

A dislocated shoulder should be relocated by a doctor or physical therapist as soon as possible, and further therapy administered so as to heal the key architectural elements. This article focuses on non-surgical treatments and therapies for a dislocated shoulder.

Closed Reduction

This is a treatment used to reduce an anterior shoulder dislocation, where a trained health professional manipulates the shoulder back into its original position. This is done by allowing the injured arm to dangle on its own at the edge of a hard surface while the patient lies on his back, allowing the shoulder muscles to relax.

This allows the dislocated humeral head to passively slip back into its socket. Should closed reduction fail, the medical practitioner usually administers an anesthetic and then pops the shoulder back into its normal position by applying force to the upper limb.

Once the shoulder is relocated, it then needs to be immobilized in a sling for up to a month so as to allow torn ligaments and soft tissue to heal and to avoid overstretching of the injured tissue.

Physical Therapies

Different physical therapies are used to reduce pain and inflammation and to strengthen and improve motion of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade.

Ice or heat therapies are great at reducing swelling and pain in the upper back and neck muscles connected to the shoulder. Soft-tissue massage can then be used once the sling is removed so as to improve blood flow and reduce pain and swelling.

Other therapies such as acupuncture or electrotherapy can also be effective at reducing pain and inflammation and triggering the injured soft tissue to heal. Movements of the fingers, neck and elbow are then encouraged while the shoulder is immobilized to improve coordination and motion.

Pendular exercise—that involves dangling the injured arm free of the chest while leaning forward or to the side—can also be encouraged to increase motion especially when the physical therapist suspects that your shoulder might get stiff.

Allowing your dangling arm to move gently from side to side provides a little traction to the glenohumeral joint, increasing its range of motion while also reducing pain and swelling.

Pendular exercise is performed without initiating movement from the injured muscles, which prevents unwanted scar tissue while also allowing the damaged ligaments to heal. For more information, contact Hillcrest Nursing Center.