Subluxation vs Dislocation – Learn the Differences of Each Shoulder Injury

    subluxation vs dislocation

    Dealing with a shoulder injury can really throw off your daily life. The shoulder is a key player in lots of movements we do without even thinking, like reaching above to grab something or even just getting dressed. When it gets injured, simple tasks can suddenly feel like huge challenges. Shoulder injuries can hurt a lot and might stop you from moving your arm normally, which is why it’s so important to get them checked out by a doctor.

    It’s pretty serious when you injure your shoulder because it can lead to more problems down the line if it’s not treated right away. Shoulder dislocations are common and require immediate care; studies reveal that they account for nearly 50% of all major joint dislocations that present to emergency departments.

    When you see a doctor for a shoulder injury, you might hear them talk about “shoulder subluxation” or “dislocation.” These terms might seem complicated, but they’re just specific ways to describe how badly the shoulder joint has been injured. Understanding the difference between these two can help you know more about your injury and how to get better.

    What are Shoulder Subluxation ?

    Imagine your shoulder joint trying to slip out of its place but not quite making it all the way. That’s what we call a shoulder subluxation. It’s like the ball at the top of your arm bone nudges out of its socket a little but doesn’t come out completely. People with this issue might not see anything wrong when they look in the mirror, but their shoulders might feel wobbly or like they could pop out with the wrong move. This can happen if you move suddenly in an awkward way or if you try lifting something that’s a bit too heavy.


    • Your shoulder feels loose.
    • Some pain, but not too extreme.
    • Your arm might not feel as strong.
    • You might feel or hear a pop when moving your shoulder

    What are Shoulder Dislocation?

    Now, if we talk about a shoulder dislocation, this is more serious. This is when the ball of your arm bone completely pops out of its socket. You’re likely to notice this one because your shoulder might look off, and it will hurt a lot. The usual reasons are a hard hit to the shoulder, maybe during sports, a nasty fall, or a car crash.


    • Really bad pain.
    • Your shoulder might look odd or out of place.
    • You’ll see swelling and maybe some bruises.
    • Moving your arm? Not happening.

    How Subluxation and Dislocation Differ

    The main difference between the two injuries is how much the joint moves out of place. With subluxation, the joint is partly out of place but not fully, so you might still be able to move your arm a bit. With dislocation, the joint is totally out of place; it’s more painful, and your arm won’t move much at all.

    Even though both injuries might happen in similar situations, like a sudden impact or strain, what you need to do next can vary a lot. A subluxation might get better with some rest and exercises to make your shoulder stronger, but a dislocation is more serious and usually needs a doctor to move the joint back into place, followed by more time to heal and get your strength back.

    How to Treat Your Shoulder from a Shoulder Subluxation

    If your shoulder has partially popped out, here’s what can help:

    1. Rest and Cold Packs: First things first, take it easy and use ice packs to bring down the swelling and ease the pain.
    2. Wrap It Up: A special bandage can give your shoulder extra support and help with the swelling.
    3. Exercise: A physical therapist can show you special exercises to make the muscles around your shoulder stronger, which helps keep everything in place.

    How to Get Better from a Shoulder Dislocation

    For a fully popped-out shoulder, you’ll need to do a bit more:

    1. Putting It Back: A doctor will need to put your shoulder back in its place. This might hurt, so they’ll make sure you don’t feel much during the process.
    2. Keep It Still: You’ll wear a sling or something similar to stop your shoulder from moving too much as it heals.
    3. Pain Relief: Your doctor might give you medicine to help with the pain after the procedure.
    4. Getting Strong Again: Once your shoulder starts feeling a bit better, it’s important to slowly start moving it again with exercises from a physical therapist.

    More Tips for a Faster Recovery

    No matter if your shoulder was partially or fully out of place, these tips can help you heal faster:

    1. Stick to the Plan: Always follow the advice and exercises your health care team gives you.
    2. Gentle Movement: Once you’re allowed, start moving your shoulder a little bit to keep it from getting stiff, but don’t push too hard.
    3. Eat Healthy: Eating foods that are good for you can help your body heal faster. Look for foods with a lot of protein, vitamins C and D, and calcium.
    4. Stay Positive: Healing takes time, and it can be tough. Try to keep a positive attitude, even when it feels slow.

    The key is to take good care of yourself and listen to your doctor or physical therapist. Rushing things might make it take even longer to get back to normal. Follow their advice, do your exercises, and give your body the nutrients it needs to heal.

    Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Shoulder Pain

    Ignoring a shoulder injury isn’t a good idea. Your shoulder is a key part of your body that you use all the time for picking things up, reaching out, and even getting dressed. When it hurts or doesn’t feel right, it’s trying to tell you something is wrong. If you don’t pay attention to it, what starts as a small problem could turn into a bigger one, causing more pain or making it hard to move your arm the way you normally would.

    Getting help early on means you can avoid these issues and get back to doing your usual activities without trouble. Remember, taking care of your shoulder when it first starts to hurt can save you a lot of problems later on.