How to Tell if a Shoulder Is Dislocated After a Car Accident

Jul 13, 2020

How to Tell if a Shoulder Is Dislocated After a Car AccidentAfter a car accident, you experience a lot of thoughts and emotions in response to what happened. You may be upset about your car getting hit, worried about your passengers, or concerned about the medical expenses you may be facing. No matter how you feel, however, you need to make sure you do a complete check of your own body to assess any car accident injuries or pain that may have occurred from the accident. Sometimes, injuries will not show up until after the adrenaline from the accident has passed, so it’s good to check back in with how you feel for several days after the car accident.

While wrist fractures and whiplash are two of the most common car accident injuries, shoulder dislocations also occur quite frequently. Unlike other injuries, though, shoulder dislocations are usually very apparent. Intense pain, bulging at the joint, and extremely limited range of motion are all common signs of a shoulder dislocation. But how can you be sure it’s a dislocation and not another injury?

Is It a Shoulder Dislocation or Something Else?

If you experience stabbing shoulder pain and cannot move your arm without extreme pain, you might be quick to jump to the conclusion that you’ve dislocated your shoulder. It’s very possible that you’re correct too, as shoulder dislocations are one of the most common injuries of the shoulder. While you should absolutely seek medical treatment if you’re in extreme pain, it can be helpful to know if your injury is a dislocation or something else.

Dislocations are characterized by swelling, numbness, bruises, weakness, muscle spasms, and intense pain. Most often, dislocations also make the shoulder look deformed or at an odd angle as compared to the other shoulder. You likely won’t be able to move your arm much, if at all, without extreme pain.

A separated shoulder may be mistaken for a dislocation, but the injury is actually quite different. While a dislocation consists of the arm bone moving out of the socket, a separated shoulder injury is actually a tear in one of the ligaments that connects the shoulder blade to the collar bone. It may have similar symptoms to a shoulder dislocation, but the pain will radiate more toward the collar bone and won’t be as extreme after the initial injury.

Shoulder Dislocation Treatment

Regardless of what type of shoulder injury you have, you need to get it checked out as soon as possible. No matter how good of an idea you think it is, you should not—in any situation—attempt to reset it yourself. You should do your best to immobilize the joint with a sling of some sort and head straight to your local orthopedic clinic. Let the medical professionals diagnose your shoulder dislocation and utilize the proper procedures to ensure you heal as effectively and thoroughly as possible.

You will likely have one or several imaging tests done to determine the extent and type of shoulder injury you’ve sustained. If you do, in fact, have a dislocated shoulder, you will need the joint to be set and then immobilized to give all the soft tissue a chance to heal. This procedure can be quite painful, so medication may be given to make it more comfortable. You may also need additional imaging tests done after the joint is reset to determine if any damage was done to the soft tissue around the shoulder. If that’s the case, your doctor may suggest having surgery to repair the injured tissues.

Whether you need surgery for your shoulder injury or not, your recovery will most likely involve physical therapy after your initial healing process. Although joint immobilization is important to let your shoulder heal, it is important to exercise and move your shoulder and arm throughout the healing process to minimize atrophy and long-term range of motion problems. This should only be done under the supervision and guidance of a physical therapist, both during your initial healing and afterward.

Visit AICA Orthopedics for the Best Car Accident Care

At AICA Orthopedics, our orthopedic shoulder specialist are extremely experienced in all types of shoulder injuries, particularly in shoulder dislocations from car accidents. If you have any sort of shoulder pain after a car accident or otherwise, it’s best to seek care from those experienced in dealing with shoulder injuries. Make an appointment at a nearby AICA Orthopedics office today and get on the road to health and healing quickly.


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