What Is The Difference Between A Separated Shoulder And A Dislocated Shoulder

Shoulder problems can be a huge nuisance. Broken shoulder, dislocated shoulder, separated shoulder, the list is endless and almost all of them need the attention of an orthopedic surgeon. Here is the difference between a dislocated shoulder and a separated shoulder.

What Is A Separated Shoulder?

A separated shoulder usually occurs on the top part of the shoulder where the collarbone and shoulder meet. Think of it as the bone connecting the shoulder and the collarbone being popped out of place. The bone is completely dislodged from the place of contact and the result is the appearance of a bump in the area where your shoulder meets the collarbone.

Causes Of A Separated Shoulder

The simple cause of a separated shoulder is any trauma or impact to the shoulder which causes the bone to pop out of its socket. Mostly sports injuries and sudden impacts on the shoulders are the two main causes of shoulder separation. Also, taking a fall on your shoulder can also lead to the bone being dislodged from the socket of the collarbone. This can be a very painful situation and you might need to see a doctor immediately.

Physical Appearance

The physical appearance of a separated shoulder is evident from the presence of a bump near the shoulder and collarbone placement. The bump shows the separation of the bone from the socket. There is also a lot of pain and swelling on the top of the shoulder and the area feels very tender too.

Treatment For A Separated Shoulder

Anti-inflammatory medication can be used to alleviate the swelling. Icing and rest can also heal a separated shoulder. In the worst case scenario, you will need to go through a shoulder surgery, if your dislodged bone is poking your nerves or important muscles.

What Is A Dislocated Shoulder?

In a shoulder dislocation, the bone gets moved from its original place but it doesn’t pop out completely. It is slightly deviated from its place, which is where the arm meets the shoulder blade. This is also very painful and it is mainly caused by a hard fall which is enough to move the bone from one place to another, but not enough to completely separate the bone from the ball and socket joint.

Causes Of A Dislocated Shoulder

Twisting your arm in a certain direction can cause the shoulder to become dislocated. Also impacts on the shoulder or sports injuries can cause dislocated shoulders.

Physical Appearance

The appearance of a dislocated shoulder can be seen from a bump which is formed on the front or back of the shoulder, rather on the top. This doesn’t hurt a lot when you move it. Rather, you can move your arm in any direction you please if you dislocate your shoulder. But, it worsens over time and it can cause severe pain and swelling in the arm.

You might not be able to feel your arm if the nerve endings are targeted by the dislocated shoulder. The area is swollen too and you can feel the dislocated bone from your skin, just by touching it. A knocking or popping sound can also be felt and heard if you try to rotate your arm and feel the bone with your hand.

Treatment For A Dislocated Shoulder

A separated shoulder is not an emergency. But a dislocated shoulder needs to be treated right away. If it is treated on time, then you can save yourself from the hassle of a surgery. The doctor will maneuver your bone back in place through physical manipulation. You will also be given pain medication and medicine to tone down the swelling. An x-ray will also indicate the placement of the shoulder.

Once the bone is placed securely in the socket, you will resume normal treatment which includes light movements of the shoulder along with icing and taking proper rest. You will also see that the pain will be diminished a lot.


There you have it! Most people can think that these two things are the same, but there is a huge difference between the two. Both are just as painful and difficult to deal with. But now you know what they are. Get in touch with a shoulder surgeon Woodbridge for diagnosis and treatment of your shoulder injury.

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