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Shoulder Subluxation: A General Overview

As I spend hours in the laboratory to do my research, I normally suffer from back or shoulder pain at the end of the day. Perhaps many people also suffer from these same problems once in a while due to the nature of their work or daily routine. However, just like back pain, shoulder pain may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition other than strenuous work. In fact, I just learned that pain in left shoulder may be a sign of heart attack.

One of the more common underlying conditions of shoulder pain is shoulder subluxation. This condition is similar to shoulder dislocation but the latter is just more permanent. Shoulder subluxation is normally a partial or temporary problem that causes instability in the shoulder joint.


Subluxations of the shoulder normally results from a fall or heavy blow on the shoulder or when the arm is severely twisted. Certain occupations such as football and boxing also put athletes at more risk of this condition. In additions, people who have suffered from previous injuries that have possibly loosened the ligaments as well as people with naturally loose ligaments are more prone to this condition.


  • Loss of sensation on the affected shoulder joint
  • Varying pain during activities from mild to severe
  • Mild to severe shoulder instability
  • Numbness or weakness in the arm or shoulder

Because of the similarities of some of its symptoms with rotator cuff tear or bursitis, subluxations are often mistaken for any of these two conditions. To aid in the correct diagnosis, your doctor will normally ask your medical history, lifestyle and daily routine, as well as conduct a series of physical examinations. Oftentimes, patients are also requested to have an MRI scan to support diagnosis.


  1. Initial treatment for subluxations in the shoulder initially involves applying ice pack on the affected shoulder joint to reduce swelling and to soothe the pain. This can be done for about 10 to 15 minutes each time for several times a day.
  2. To reduce inflammation and persistent pain, over-the-counter medication or NSAIDs may also be recommended by your doctor.
  3. Rest is also an important part of the treatment process. You should avoid doing regular activities that may possibly worsen your condition or hinder your recovery. Wearing a sling can greatly help during this period. However, it is important to also avoid completely immobilizing the affected joint as it can lead to frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis.
  4. When the patient’s condition has improved, treatment is normally followed by exercises that can help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. An independent therapist will be able to design an ideal exercise program for you with the approval of your doctor.
  5. For cases of repeated subluxations, surgery may be necessary to tighten the ligaments.

Shoulder pain may be a normal condition, but if it is often recurring and is causing you much pain and discomfort, it is best to see your doctor. You may already be experiencing some serious underlying conditions that need immediate attention by your healthcare provider.