The symptoms of an atraumatic dislocation are similar to a traumatic dislocation. You may experience severe pain in your shoulder and you probably won’t want anyone to touch it. Sometimes the shoulder might just ache and feel loose. If you’re playing sports, you might think you have a ‘dead arm’.
The shoulder is inherently unstable as it relies on the muscles and ligaments to stop it dislocating. An atraumatic dislocation is less common than a traumatic one, and normally happens because of a problem with the tissues around the shoulder. Alternatively it could happen because of ‘repetitive microtrauma’, which is when the shoulder experiences stress repeatedly through an activity like gymnastics or swimming.
For diagnosis, your doctor will want to talk to you about what you’ve been doing and then examine your shoulder. They might well use an MRI scan to rule out the chance of any damage associated with a traumatic dislocation.
If the shoulder is definitely dislocated then the treatment is the same as for a traumatic dislocation. The shoulder will be replaced back into its joint, and you’ll need to wear a sling for three weeks or so. After that you’ll have physiotherapy to build up the strength.
However, if symptoms are more vague then you’ll have physiotherapy to improve the balance of the muscles and to stabilise the shoulder blade. The whole arm hangs off the shoulder blade, and if it doesn’t move properly for some reason then neither will the shoulder. If there is a major problem within your shoulder then you might have to have an operation to repair and stabilise it.