Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

Posterior shoulder dislocation

A posterior shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus moves backwards out of the socket. This is a relatively rare injury as most shoulder dislocations are anterior. Car accidents, contact sports, or falling can cause a posteriorly dislocated shoulder.


Posterior shoulder dislocation symptoms

  • Dislocated shoulder symptoms include sudden severe pain in the shoulder joint at the time of injury with rapid swelling.
  • There will be a complete loss of shoulder function with constant pain and inability to use the arm.
  • The shoulder will appear deformed. Often if you have a posterior shoulder dislocation you will want to hold your arm out sideways and rotate inwards.
  • You may be able to feel the end of your humerus bone at the back of your shoulder.

Assessment & diagnosis

  • An MRI or X-ray can identify associated fractures or soft tissue damage.
  • Your doctor will check the pulse in your arm to identify possible injury to blood vessels. Assessing sensation levels in your arm may help identify any nerve damage.
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There are two reasons a posterior shoulder dislocation occurs:

  • A direct impact to the front humeral head, pushing it posteriorly or back.
  • Or a fall onto an outstretched arm.

Both of these situations happen in sports, especially contact sports. They are also common traumas resulting from car accidents and epileptic seizures. During a seizure, the individual thrashes their arms violently. As a result, causing a posterior dislocation.

Treatment of a posterior shoulder dislocation

  • Seek medical attention for a dislocated shoulder immediately. Do not try to move the shoulder or put it back yourself. Once at the hospital, a Doctor will examine your injury.
  • Treatment depends on the extent of your dislocation and how recent your injury is.
  • If you do not have any associated fractures and the level of dislocation is minor, your doctor usually reduces it themselves (pops back into place).
  • They may use muscle relaxants, sedatives or anaesthetics to make reduction easier.
  • The shoulder will then require rest to allow the soft tissues to heal, followed by a rehabilitation program to regain full movement and strength.
  • You may need surgery to reduce your shoulder if you have lots of soft tissue damage, fractures, or injury to nerves and blood vessels. Following surgery, you will have a period of immobilization and rest, followed by a full rehabilitation program.
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