Subluxation (shoulder)

The shoulder is a highly mobile ball and socket joint. The ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) is held in place at the socket (glenoid) of the shoulder blade (scapula) by a group of ligaments. A partial dislocation of the shoulder joint is termed a subluxation. This means the ball has partially moved out of the glenoid as opposed to a dislocation where the ball completely moves out of the glenoid. A subluxation usually occurs from a fall or a direct blow to your shoulder. It can also be caused due to a previous shoulder injury or if the ligaments in your shoulder are loose. A subluxation has a tendency to recur due to laxity in the ligaments.

What are the symptoms of subluxation?

Subluxation of the shoulder includes the following symptoms:
A feeling that your shoulder has moved out of place
• Pain, numbness or weakness of the injured shoulder
A feeling of looseness of the shoulder

How is subluxation diagnosed?

Subluxation of the shoulder is diagnosed by checking your medical history and symptoms and performing a physical examination of your shoulder. Your doctor may also recommend X-rays to confirm diagnosis and check for any fractures of the shoulder joint.

What are the treatment options?

Subluxation of the shoulder is treated with rest, ice packs and NSAIDs to reduce the pain and inflammation. You may be referred to physical therapy for shoulder strengthening exercises to help prevent recurrence. Surgery may be required to repair the ligaments, if conservative treatment measures do not prevent further subluxations.

Useful Links

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand
  • St. Luke's Roosevelt
  • Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
  • NYU School of Medicine
  • North Shore LIJ
  • University Spine Center
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  • Andrew FeldMan MD