How to Reduce Shoulder Dislocation
March 3, 2021
Shoulder dislocations have been reported since the time of Hippocrates and the dawn of medical commentary. Additionally, they represent the most common dislocation requiring trips to the Emergency Room. This is not surprising because while the shoulder is a ball and socket joint, the socket is very shallow (like a golf tee). This enables the shoulder to have the impressive range of motion that it does, but comes at the expense of shoulder stability. A large number of manual reduction techniques (ways to pull on the arm and put the shoulder back in place) have been described over the centuries and no one method is clearly the best.
This study from an Emergency Department in Spain compared the success of two different shoulder reduction techniques, the Spaso technique, which is performed by the ER doctor; and the Boss-Holzach-Matter (BHM) technique, which is performed by the patient on him or herself.
Results showed that the two techniques were equally effective and the BHM technique resulted in less pain reported by the patient during the maneuver. Because some people have shoulders that easily dislocate due to repeated prior dislocations and since shoulder dislocations can occur in the wilderness, far away from medical care, it is helpful to know that a patient to put his or her shoulder back in place by using the BHM technique. The article details the method of this technique, however, the BHM self-reduction technique should be taught to a patient by a doctor prior to use. Of course, if medical care is available, a patient should seek the expertise of a doctor if they sustain this type of shoulder injury. In addition, if someone is repeatedly dislocating their shoulder, doctors can often help by surgically stabilizing the shoulder, thus preventing future dislocations and damage to the shoulder joint.
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Commentary by Dr. Russell Nord, M.D.
Dr. Russell Nord, M.D., is on the SimpleTherapy Clinical Advisory Board, the Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Washington Hospital’s Sports Medicine Program and Orthopaedic Surgery Section Chair at Washington Hospital.
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