An Essential Guide to Shoulder Injuries in Women : Shoulder injuries are common among female athletes because they often have higher levels of estrogen, looser ligaments, lesser muscle mass, and less powerful muscles. The most common shoulder injuries include a rotator cuff tear, shoulder separation, and shoulder dislocation.
Since shoulder separation and shoulder dislocation injuries both present with pain, swelling, and a visible shoulder deformity, it’s easy to confuse one with the other. Listed below are some tips to help you distinguish between these two shoulder injuries.
One of the best ways to determine whether you have a shoulder separation or a shoulder dislocation is through assessing the location of the shoulder injury.
As the most flexible and mobile joint in the body, the shoulder has two main joints namely the acromioclavicular joint and the glenohumeral joint.
The glenohumeral joint, also known as your ball and socket joint, connects your humerus (upper arm bone) to your shoulder. When the ball of your humerus slips out of your socket, a shoulder dislocation occurs. Your acromioclavicular joint, on the other hand, connects your shoulder and clavicle (or collarbone) together. If it gets separated, the injury is called a shoulder separation.
Signs and Symptoms
Both shoulder separation and shoulder dislocation injuries manifest with redness, swelling, and bruising. If there is a noticeable bump or deformity on top of your shoulder, however, it might be a shoulder separation injury. If there is an indentation or deformity below your shoulder, that is more likely a shoulder dislocation injury.
Both injuries present with intense pain. If you have a shoulder separation injury, you’re more likely to feel the pain and tenderness on top of your shoulder or near your collarbone while in a shoulder dislocation injury, the pain is mostly localized at your upper arm.
While shoulder separation and shoulder dislocation are two different injuries, they are both likely to develop when the shoulder receives a direct and forceful blow caused by:
- High impact contact sports such as skiing, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey.
- Falling on a hard surface.
- Being involved in vehicular accidents.
First Aid Treatment
While waiting for medical help, you can apply the following first aid treatment regardless if it is a shoulder separation or a shoulder dislocation injury.
- Immobilize the shoulder of the patient and protect it from further harm.
- Reduce the pain and swelling by applying an ice pack to the injured shoulder for at least 15-20 minutes.
- Have the patient take an over-the-counter painkiller if cold compress is not enough to reduce the pain.
- If you suspect a shoulder dislocation injury, do not attempt to pop the dislocated shoulder back to its socket. It might only cause further harm to the patient as this procedure requires medical expertise.
A shoulder separation injury may take about 6 weeks to heal and the management often involves applying a cold compress, wearing an arm sling, and taking pain medications. Surgical intervention may be required if the injury is severe.
On the other hand, a shoulder dislocation injury may take about 12 to 16 weeks to achieve full recovery. Treatments usually include a reduction procedure wherein your doctor will inject you with a general anesthetic agent and pop your arm back. Once it’s back in place, you will be sent home and encouraged to manage your injured shoulder with a cold pack, an arm sling, and pain medications as well. You’ll also need to undergo physiotherapy sessions.
Both shoulder injuries are not life-threatening but they can cause you a great deal of pain. To prevent these shoulder injuries from happening, you need to observe extra care when engaging in high impact sports. You can also wear shoulder braces for additional shoulder protection.
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