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.

“A shoulder separation will occur at top of the shoulder, sometimes causing a bump in the affected area,” says Dr. Rajesh B. Makim, shoulder specialist at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron. “A shoulder dislocation will occur when the shoulder joint comes apart, a much more serious and painful injury.”

Other symptoms for each injury include the following:

Shoulder Separation:

  • Bump on the top of the shoulder
  • Pain, swelling, bruising
  • Limited motion

Shoulder Dislocation:

  • Severe pain, inability to move the shoulder
  • Abnormal position of shoulder or arm
  • Indentation or deformity just below shoulder

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. In certain cases, early surgery may be recommended to repair the torn ligaments and restore stability. For further information on the anatomy of the shoulder, visit our patient education page.

To consult with one of our doctors at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron, please call (810) 985-4900 or click on the Appointment Request button.