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How should you treat a dislocated shoulder?

If you suffer a dislocated shoulder, such as from lifting a heavy object at work, don't delay in receiving a professional diagnosis. This will help you better understand your injury, prognosis and the best type of treatment.

The way you treat a dislocated shoulder is based largely on the extent of your injury, as well as any additional damage. Here are a few things to discuss with your medical team:

  • Closed reduction: Your doctor may be able to maneuver your shoulder back into proper position, helping you avoid the need for surgery. It's a painful procedure, but once everything is properly aligned, you'll feel much better.
  • Surgery: This is typically required if you've had past problems with your shoulder and/or have a weak shoulder joint. Your doctor may also suggest surgery in the event of damage to blood vessels or nerves in the area.
  • Immobilization: A splint or sling can keep your shoulder in place for an extended period of time, helping it heal. Your doctor can help you decide how long to keep your shoulder immobilized, with two to three weeks common.

As you recover, you may require some form of rehabilitation. For example, physical therapy can help strengthen your shoulder, increase range of motion and prevent future injury.

Since a dislocated shoulder typically calls for an extended period of recovery, you may not be able to return to work right away. Rather than push through the pain, file a workers' compensation claim. This allows you to receive compensation during your recovery, which takes your mind off the financial impact of the injury.

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