Shoulder Dislocation, Subluxation, & Laxity

Shoulder Dislocation, Subluxation, & Laxity


What is the difference between dislocation & subluxation & how does that relate to my rotator cuff muscles?



If you watch professional sports these are some terms that are often thrown around by newscasters when describing an athlete’s injury, but what do these words mean and how are they related to each other?

  • Shoulder laxity is something that is found in individuals with weak rotator cuff muscles, the muscles that stabilize the head of your humerus against the labrum of your shoulder. When these stabilizers are weak, the muscles around your shoulder don’t allow proper fitting & movement of the structures within the joint which can result in a separation.
  • A momentary separation in which the shoulder slides of out socket & slides right back in is a subluxation.
  • A dislocation is a more severe translation where the shoulder comes out of the socket completely & needs to be put back by the athlete, athletic trainer, or physical therapist.

Shoulder dislocations can be the result of a traumatic injury or can be due to laxity of the joint. Regardless of the cause, dislocations often cause secondary injuries such as a labral tear. There is a surgical option to fix shoulder laxity called a shoulder plication surgery in which the head of the humerus is artificially adhered to the labrum. However, there are also non surgical options that involve strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and altering your body mechanics in a given sport. Rotator cuff strengthening is a critical part of any complete workout routine and will be covered more thoroughly in future videos.

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