Shoulder Dislocation: What You Need to Know

December 20, 2019

The shoulder joint, also called the ball-and-socket joint, is the body’s most mobile joint. The downside of this mobility is that the joint is more susceptible to shoulder dislocation.

Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation

Your shoulder becomes dislocated when the top of your upper arm bone, which is shaped like a ball, pops out of the cup-shaped socket in your shoulder blade. You might experience a partial dislocation, which occurs when the ball is partially out of the socket, or a full dislocation, which happens when the ball is entirely outside the socket.

Shoulder dislocation can include:

  • severe shoulder pain
  • limited arm mobility
  • bruising and swelling of your shoulder or upper arm
  • numbness or weakness in the arms, hands, or fingers
  • muscle spasms, which can intensify pain

What Causes a Dislocated Shoulder

Common causes of shoulder dislocation include:

  • accidents, such as automobile crashes
  • sports injuries
  • falling on an outstretched arm
  • a blow to the shoulder

Treatment for Shoulder Dislocation

Attempting to pop your own shoulder back into place is not recommended, as it can cause damage to muscles, ligaments, nerves, or blood vessels. It’s important to get to an emergency care center promptly for treatment.

There, your provider will examine your shoulder, and if they believe it’s dislocated, they will order an x-ray for confirmation. Your provider will perform a closed reduction, in which they place the ball back into the socket. Putting the joint back in place should swiftly put a stop to severe pain. You may also be given pain relief medication and told to ice the sore area.

Early on in the healing process, you will need to rest a great deal, and you might be required to wear a sling for several weeks to hold your shoulder in place.

Once the pain and swelling have improved, you will begin a physical therapy routine, in which you will perform exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your range of motion. These might include gentle toning exercises, followed by weight training later. If you stick to your exercise routine, your full range of motion will likely return in several weeks.

Occasionally, patients who dislocate their shoulders can damage nerves or tissue, which may require surgery. This can also happen after repeated dislocations, requiring surgery to restore the shoulder’s stability and reduce the likelihood of future dislocations. 

If you are experiencing shoulder pain and believe you need to have your shoulder examined, connect with our team at Campbell Clinic. Once you schedule an appointment, one of our shoulder doctors will examine your shoulder, determine the cause of your pain, and discuss your options moving forward.


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