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Recovering from a dislocated shoulder

This is the story of my dislocated shoulder recovery. I’m not a doctor, this is not medical advice.

Bikers: If you get nothing else from this post, watch this video Showing Kocher’s method for putting your shoulder back in (I paid a very nice ER doc $800 for a live demonstration). Of course, you should see a doctor as soon as you can, but maybe it will spare you a scary hike.

One Sunday (July 25, 2015) when I was bored with riding on the road, I took off for a trail ride. It was an amazing 45 minutes before I got into trouble. I started on the beginner trails at Duthie Hill. Even though it was a damp morning, the trail was so nice I kicked myself for not going up there once a week all summer.

I started slowly and cautiously. I’ve had bad luck falling off my mountain bike – a couple times since I got it last year. After the beginner trail, I went to another nearby Grand Ridge trail which is more difficult (see photo above). I rode a ways out before turning around. Unfortunately on the way back I hit a loose patch of gravel on the outside of a narrow turn. My front wheel washed out to the right and I flew like superman into the ground – landing mostly on my chest. I landed with just the right forced to dislocate my left shoulder.

A nice young lady came along two minutes later. I asked her “This doesn’t look normal does it?” showing her my shoulder. “No,” she said. She graciously pushed both of our bikes out while I hiked. I carried the weight of my left arm in my right-hand. Surprisingly, it was not that painful. I didn’t relax until we hiked / jogged for about 20 minutes out to the road.

I’m writing this post to share some of the supplements I found trying to accelerate my recovery. Unfortunately, it’s been very slow. Over a hundred days now. I was able to get back on my bike after about 2 1/2 months, but I completely missed the last month of the race season. Luckily, it was only about two weeks that my arm was in a sling and I couldn’t type. It seems like my shoulder will be back to normal around the end of the year (5 months total).

Wondering how to heal a dislocated shoulder faster? Here are some of the supplements I that I tried.

  • Glucosamine
  • MSM
  • Gelatin (collagen) – (helps re-grow tissue)
  • Fish oil
  • Daily vitamin
  • Cissus quadrangularis (helps joint healing)
  • Magnesium (relaxes muscles)
  • Ginger tea (reduces inflammation)

I also used a heating pad, stability ball, foam roller, and tennis ball in a sock to release tight back muscles.

It’s really only Advil that I can definitively point to as helping my recovery. I should’ve taken more sooner in order to sleep better and heal faster, but I didn’t like the idea of numbing the pain. I suspect the nice snugness of my newly reformed shoulder capsule is likely due to many of the supplements that I took (primarily the Gelatin).

I did a number of exercises recommended by a physical therapist. Other than slowly strengthening and stretching my shoulder, it’s hard to say which helped the most. So I won’t list them here.

The big lesson from this dislocated shoulder recovery is that I need to keep working on my skills. The Total cost of the accident: a $2,000 trip to the ER, and a $1,000 chipped tooth.

Update: Day 87 (12.5 weeks)

Motion continues to increase slightly every day. I’ve started doing Tony Horton’s Shoulder rehab workout. 

Update: Day 102 (14.5 weeks, 5 November 2015).

I was still having trouble sleeping last week. I can’t get used to sleeping on my back. A cold I got earlier in the summer came back. I’m pretty sure it’s because I wasn’t getting enough sleep (5 hrs a night). On a doctor’s recommendation, I’m back doing three Advil an hour before bed. It’s made a big improvement in my sleep.

Update: Dislocated shoulder recovery – 2 years later

Wow, I’m re-reading this and remembering how rough my recovery was. I’ve had two great bike-race seasons in 2016 and 2017 since my accident. According to Strava, I was back on the bike by September 2015. I slowly eased in to more riding and running, and added lots of Zwift. My left shoulder is still slightly less mobile than my right, but no pain. Fingers crossed I won’t be writing another blog post like this.

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  1. Can you please post some updates on recovery progress? Will give others some helpful insights. The gelatin info is really helpful btw

  2. I stumbled across your blog searching for ‘how to heal a dislocated shoulder.’ Thanks for listing the supplements that helped you heal! Very helpful.

    I know this is now a 2 year old injury, but I was wondering if your shoulder ever popped back out again? Did you fully heal without having to get surgery?

    • My shoulder has been fine. I’ve had a slight loss of mobility (can’t reach up and behind my head as easily), but it has never popped back out. So, I’d call it 96% healed. Never had surgery, but the doctor explained that if it happens again, surgery may be necessary.

  3. Hello, thank you for writing about this. My shoulder dislocated October 2017 and I am still recovering. I have been really worried about this happening again because I was not doing much of anything when it happened. I reached out to grab a door handle when it happened. I did not fall or engage in any other activity that might make this more likely. I just started today taking glucosamine/ chondroitin to help with recovery. I am curious to know which on the list of supplements was more beneficial in your healing.

  4. Thanks for post!! I dislocated my shoulder about 45 days ago( commuting to work on a cold wet Seattle morning) and was feeling like my recovery is going way slow. Thanks to your timeline, it appears I am just antsy to get riding again. Plus, I suspect you are much younger than me, as I will be 60 in August. I will try most of the supplements you mentioned. Thanks