Dislocation or Separation?

A shoulder injury is typically associated with a sudden or traumatic event such as a sports-related injury or fall. As a result, shoulder separation or dislocation is common. However, the difference between the two begins with the location of the injury in the shoulder.

Shoulder separation is an injury to the ligament between the shoulder blade and collarbone. Whereas shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of the arm bone loses contact with the socket of the shoulder blade. Both are extremely painful at the time of injury and should be evaluated by a medical professional immediately. Other symptoms for each injury include the following:

Shoulder Separation:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Sizeable bump over injury site
  • Swelling or bruising

Shoulder Dislocation:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Arm positioned slightly away from the body with the forearm turned outward
  • Loss of the rounded contour of the deltoid muscle (the muscle which caps the shoulder)

The treatment options for shoulder separation and dislocation differ as well. Shoulder separation is graded on the severity of the injury and the position of the displaced bone. In almost all cases, shoulder separation is treated using conservative treatment options such as icing the injury, anti-inflammatory medications, and rest. In rare cases where shoulder separation is more severe, shoulder surgery may be considered.

Shoulder dislocation requires the shoulder to be put back into its normal position or reduced. The patient will receive anesthesia before the doctor manipulates the bones to slide them back into position without causing further damage to the shoulder joint. Ligaments within the shoulder are torn; therefore, the shoulder joint becomes less stable, which may require a patient to undergo additional treatment. For those individuals that continue to have recurrent or repeat shoulder dislocations, surgery should be discussed.

Southern California Orthopedic Institute has experts experienced in treating shoulder pain and injuries. To find out more about shoulder pain and the treatment options available, call (818) 901-6600 to schedule an appointment.