Reducing your own shoulder dislocation

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By Mr Harry Brownlow, April 2018

Generally speaking there are 2 groups of people who dislocate their shoulder. One group, actually the least common, have a problem with excessively loose shoulders which dislocate quite easily and which pop back (reduce) relatively easily too. But the more common group are those people who do not have loose shoulders but who sustain a major injury which forces the shoulder into dislocating by damaging major ligaments or bone. The first episode of dislocation is the one which does most internal damage and is therefore the most painful. Even if you are able to reduce the shoulder yourself, or with help, it is important to attend hospital for an xray to ensure you have not also sustained a fracture.  And if you are over 40 then it is crucial that you have your rotator cuff tendons checked with an ultrasound or MRI.

As a consequence of the damaged ligaments, which seldom heal fully, the shoulder becomes much more vulnerable to further dislocations with diminishing provocation.

If you suffer with recurrent instability then you will be interested in this technique which has been described for safely reducing a shoulder without the need for strong painkillers or anaesthetic. A recent study has shown it was just as quick and effective as having a doctor pull on your arm and it was less painful!

It is known as the Boss-Holzach-Matter autoreduction technique or the Davos Method.

Sit on a hard surface.

shoulder dislocation

Clasp your hands together around your bent knee. It is best if the wrists are gently tied together so that your hands can relax.

Lean back to apply traction on the dislocated shoulder. Shrug your shoulders forwards.

It may take up to 10 minutes to work. You will instinctively know when your shoulder has reduced. If it doesn’t work then you will need to go to hospital. If it remains unusually painful after reduction then you will need to have an xray to exclude a fracture, or if you have persistent numbness/ pins and needles/ tingling anywhere in the arm then you need to see a doctor to check your nerves.

This is only one of a whole number of reduction techniques but most others involve requirement for strong pain relief and somebody else to twist and pull on the arm. These physical reduction manoeuvres are painful and risk causing damage to the bone.

If you are suffering with recurrent instability then you may wish to see a shoulder surgeon who can chat through the treatment options.