The Difference Between A Separated Shoulders & A Dislocated Shoulder

Traumatic shoulder injuries such as separations and dislocations affect many Americans each year causing many to have chronic shoulder pain, but many get confused about what these terms mean and how they differ from one another.

Shoulder Separation

Falling directly on the shoulder is often times the cause of a Shoulder separation injury. This downward force will cause the scapula to displace inferiorly and tearing and sometimes completely rupturingligaments of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. This result in a small deformity where the end of the clavicle is elevated. While falls onto the should rare the most common cause, it is possible for other injuries that involve downward traction of the scapula or upward traction of the clavicle to cause an AC separation as well.  As shown in the image below, there are six types of shoulder separations. These injuries are traumatic in nature and often result in chronic arthritic pain.

AC joint is dislocated due to injured ligaments.
The Clavicle is and the scapula are displaced as a result of a ligamentous injury in the AC joint.

Shoulder Dislocation

Since the shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, it has the most potential to be injured in a dislocation injury. This is due to its reliance on structures like muscles to provide a significant portion of it’s stability rather than collateral ligaments like the knee. The most common form is an anterior dislocation in which the head of the humerus slips out of the glenoid cavity and is no longer held by the labrum of the shoulder. Once any dislocation occurs, it is much more likely for a subsequent dislocation to occur due to the loss of vacuum suction in the joint. Posterior type dislocation are far less common with electrocution being a common cause.

Shoulder dislocations.
Types of shoulder dislocation.

Chronic Issues

Separations generally don’t lead to instability of the shoulder joint  on their own and most cases do not require surgery even with the presence of permanent deformity. AC separations generally require minimal treatment which may include ice and a sling to return the patient to full function however Directional Non-Force Technique chiropractic care may help to reduce pain associated with chronic conditions, primarily osteoarthritis, associated with the injury.

Dislocations often times result in chronic instability which require rehabilitative exercises to tone and tighten the rotator cuff muscles which help to stabilize the joint. This is necessary since the first dislocation is likely to have disrupted the primary stabilization mechanisms in the shoulder. Directional Non-Force Technique chiropractic care is a good way to maintain proper proprioceptive signaling of the rotator cuff muscles allowing for more awareness of join position and resting tone as well as reducing pain associated with chronic instability of the glenohumeral joint.

Suspected Dislocation or Separation

Initial management of these conditions should be handled by a medical professional. Once out of the acute phase, chiropractic care in particular DNFT and rehabilitative exercises are appropriate.

If you have been suffering from chronic issues stemming from shoulder dislocation or shoulder separation and you live in the Franklin, Brentwood, Thompson Station area of Tennessee then give us a call at (615) 415-0125.