Shoulder Dislocation vs. Shoulder Separation

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The Difference of a Shoulder Dislocation and a Shoulder Separation

Two distinct shoulder injuries commonly confused are shoulder dislocation and shoulder separation. Each injury causes shoulder pain and discomfort in patients but have varying symptoms and treatment protocols. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the shoulder joint comes apart during a traumatic event. A shoulder separation occurs at the top of the shoulder and is typically caused by tearing of the ligaments connecting the collarbone to the shoulder blade. Orthopedic shoulder specialist in Austin, Texas, Dr. Jeff Padalecki is well versed on both shoulder injuries.

Two of the most common shoulder injuries include a shoulder dislocation and a shoulder separation, both generally associated with athletic activities, especially skiing, football, hockey and soccer. Both injuries commonly occur from a fall or a direct hit to the shoulder joint. A patient can also experience a dislocation of the shoulder from a sharp twisting motion of the arm.

Shoulder Dislocation vs. Shoulder Separation Symptoms

Common symptoms of a shoulder dislocation include shoulder pain, swelling and deformity of the joint.  A visible deformity can be seen in many cases since the shoulder joint is popped out of socket. Patients may also experience loss of the rounded contour of the deltoid muscle and/or an arm that is positioned slightly away from the body with the forearm turned outward.

Common shoulder separation symptoms include shoulder pain, swelling and bruising from tearing of the ligaments and other soft tissues. Patients may also experience a large lump over the injured area, shoulder weakness and limited range of motion.

Shoulder Dislocation and Shoulder Separation Diagnostic Testing

Dr. Padalecki will perform a thorough physical examination in both shoulder injuries to confirm the exact cause of shoulder pain. An X-ray and MRI are also utilized in most cases to determine extent of injury and confirm the diagnosis.

Have you sustained a shoulder dislocation or separation?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Padalecki:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Padalecki.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Padalecki.

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Shoulder Dislocation vs. Shoulder Separation Treatment

Treatment options for a dislocated shoulder and a separated shoulder differ. A shoulder dislocation is treated by placing the joint back into its original position. Certain patients may require surgery if ligaments or other soft tissues were damaged during the injury.

A shoulder separation injury involves a number of treatment options depending on extent of ligament damage. Classified by severity in a grade 1-3 system, many separated shoulder injuries can be treated with non-surgical measures such as ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medications. More severe cases may require surgery for optimum recovery.

Shoulder Dislocation and Shoulder Separation Post- Op

In both shoulder injuries, a rehabilitation program will be prescribed at your first post-operative visit with Dr. Padalecki’s team. Following surgery, rehabilitation is as important as the actual surgical repair. Exercises to rehabilitate the ligaments will improve the shoulder’s range of motion and prevent scar tissue from forming during the healing process. Exercises to strengthen the shoulder joint will gradually be added so a patient can resume normal, everyday activities.

For more resources on shoulder dislocation vs. shoulder separation, please contact the orthopedic office of Dr. Jeff Padalecki, shoulder specialist  located in Austin, Texas. 

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