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Dislocation vs. Separation

Major differences exist between shoulder separation and shoulder dislocation although, they are often confused. It is important to understand those differences because the management, treatment, and rehabilitation of each injury vary.

A shoulder injury is typically associated with a sudden or traumatic event such as a sports-related injury or fall. As a result, shoulder separation or dislocation is common. However, the difference between the two begins with the location of the injury in the shoulder.

β€œA shoulder separation occurs at the A.C. joint. This joint is located on the top of the shoulder area where the clavicle or collar bone connects to the acromion. If the separation is severe the end of the clavicle is elevated under the skin causing a bump.” says Dr. Todd Shapiro, shoulder specialist at Southern California Orthopedic Institute. β€œOn the other hand, a shoulder subluxation or dislocation occcurs when the ball and socket or gleno-humeral or "true" shoulder joint comes apart. This is a much more serious injury usually causing damage to the ligaments and often requiring surgery to repair the damage.”

Other symptoms for each injury include the following:

Shoulder Separation:

Shoulder Dislocation:

The treatment options for shoulder separation and dislocation differ as well. Shoulder separation is graded on the severity of the injury and the position of the displaced bone. In almost all cases, shoulder separation is treated using conservative treatment options such as icing the injury, anti-inflammatory medications, and rest. In rare cases where shoulder separation is more severe, shoulder surgery may be considered.

Shoulder dislocation is treated by putting it back into place, which can be done on the scene of the injury by an orthopedic expert or at a hospital. Other forms of treatment include injections to help reduce the dislocation.

For further information on the anatomy of the shoulder, visit our patient education page.

Southern California Orthopedic Institute has expert orthopedists experienced in treating shoulder pain and injuries. To find out more about shoulder pain and the treatment options available, call (877) 933-3387 to schedule an appointment.

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