If you’ve dislocated your shoulder, you may assume that once it’s popped back into place (preferably by a doctor and not a friend who insists they know how to do it), everything will be fine. It’s still painful, but some over-the-counter pain medication should take care of that, you might assume.
Unfortunately, there could be a lot more damage than you realize. A shoulder dislocation is a traumatic injury that’s typically caused by one event – although sometimes it occurs over time from repeated movements, like lifting or working on things overhead.
That’s why it’s crucial to get some imaging done, like an MRI. This will show any further damage that needs to be treated in order to get full use of your shoulder and arm back and avoid complications.
Some common complications of shoulder dislocations
If the circumflex axillary nerve in the shoulder is injured, it can cause numbness and eventually weakness in the shoulder and upper arm. Without treatment, damage to this nerve can restrict your ability to move your shoulder
In a shoulder dislocation, it’s possible to tear the rotator cuff, which contains the four muscles at the top of the shoulder and the tendons that connect to them. The rotator cuff is what lets us lift and rotate the arm. If the rotator cuff is injured but not torn and gets proper treatment, it’s possible to avoid the need for surgery.
Damage to the bones in the shoulder is also possible, as are more rare complications. That’s why it’s crucial to get medical attention beyond just having your shoulder moved back into place. You’ll likely be advised by your doctor not to use that shoulder for some time.
If you dislocated your shoulder while working, it’s crucial to report the injury and seek workers’ compensation to cover the cost of medical treatment and help replace lost wages. If you’re having difficulty with your employer or your workers’ compensation insurer, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights under the California Workers’ Compensation Act.