One may get a dislocated shoulder by an accidental injury, such as, a fall while skiing, playing rugby, or may be a simple slip at home. In short, it can happen when you are least expecting it. Time required to recover from this injury depends on a number factors and is not same for all people.
In fact, a lot depends on the wear and tear that the joint has suffered and the type of dislocation; whether it is anterior or posterior.
The shoulder joint is a kind of ball-and-socket joint. Humerus or the head of the bone of the upper arm fits into a cuplike cavity in the shoulder blade. The head is held in the position by the cartilage that is lining the cavity and the muscles and ligaments of the shoulder.
Of these muscles, those on the front of the shoulders, are a bit lax and in certain situations, let go of their grip on the head of the bone and before you realize what is happening, your shoulder gets dislocated. The pain is extreme and unbearable.
Often, the head of the humerus is wrenched out of the socket due to trauma to the back of the shoulder and comes to rest on front of the rib cage. This is called an anterior dislocation. The other form, posterior dislocation, occurs due to trauma to the front of the shoulder. This happens in less than 5% of patients.
Another form of injury is subluxation of shoulder joint. The head of the humerus suffers a partial displacement and sits half in and half out of the socket. This is not easy to spot and sometimes, relocates on its own. Of course, it still needs medical intervention and as much care as you would lavish on a complete dislocation.
It is important to remember that this form of subluxation is not the same as chronic subluxation which is permanent and can be because of repeated dislocations.
In case of a dislocation, the first step is to push the head of the humerus back into the socket as early as possible, before it swells and becomes stiff. At first, it is tried without anesthetic. In some cases, it doesn't work as protective muscle spasms, the extreme pain hiders the work. With anesthetic, it becomes easy to push the head of the humerus in.
The injured joint needs to be immobilized by using a sling for 2-3 weeks. During this period, the doctors will look for tingling sensations in the injured arm. The head of the humerus needs to be X-rayed to detect if it has suffered any fracture during the incident.
The presence of either of these causes may prompt your physician to advice you to undergo a surgery, either to treat the damaged nerve or the fractured bone. Surgery, if it is needed, extends the recovery time.
In this situation, your physician may like to ascertain how much injury the humerus has caused to the cartilage rim of the socket. It may have detached from the socket during the trauma. If left untreated, it affects the stability of the shoulder joint. The patient may have to undergo surgery to repair this damage. This further increases the recovery time.
There are chances that the patient may feel pain while doing certain activities, even after the healing. Normally, the healing time is of 4-12 weeks. The pain, in some of the patients, may linger for some time.
Factors, such as age, the extent of the damage and how strictly the rehab program was followed by the patient affects the duration of healing time. The younger patients respond positively to therapy, heal faster and need less time to recover than the older patients.
In case of a dislocated shoulder, there are less chances of affected muscles regaining their full strength and length. Because of this, patients who have suffered a shoulder dislocation are prone to dislocate it again, if unreasonable pressure is brought on it.
One must note that the failure to follow the rehab program has very adverse effects on the functionality of the affected shoulder joint. Moreover, there are no shortcuts to take for cutting short the healing time.