Last Updated on Apr 07, 2016

What is Dislocated Shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder is an injury which causes the upper end of the arm bone slip out of its socket.

Shoulder dislocation may occur due to a fall or other trauma where there is a sudden blow to the shoulder. The dislocation may be complete or partial.

Dislocations of shoulder are commonly caused by injuries during sports such as football, hockey, downhill skiing, gymnastics and volleyball. They can also occur during other trauma such as motor accidents or during a fall from a height.

Dislocated Shoulder

Males in their teens and twenties are most prone to shoulder dislocations due to their higher levels of activity and participation in the above sports.

Normally, the patient regains full function within a few weeks of the injury. However, if the shoulder has been dislocated once, the joint may become unstable and be prone to recurrent dislocations.

Symptoms of Dislocated Shoulder

Symptoms of dislocated shoulder may include:

  • Deformed shoulder
  • Intense pain
  • Inability to move shoulder
  • Swelling / bruising
  • Numbness /tingling in the arm and neck
  • Muscle spasms
Intense Pain in Shoulder

Complications of a dislocated shoulder often include:

  • Instability of the shoulder, which leads to repeated dislocations.
  • Damage to the surrounding structures like ligaments, muscles, nerves and blood vessels

Diagnosis of Dislocated Shoulder

It is important to get prompt medical help if you have had a shoulder injury and you suspect shoulder dislocation. While you wait for medical assistance, ensure that you do not move the injured joint or try to put the dislocated bone back in its place. This might damage the ligaments, blood vessels or nerves around the joint. Try to immobilize the injured hand using a sling and apply ice to the injured shoulder to reduce pain and swelling.

Diagnosis of Dislocated Shoulder

At the medical facility your doctor will carry out a physical exam and will look out for signs of deformity, swelling or tenderness. The doctor will also order an X-ray to assess the extent of injury and rule out bone fractures.

Treatment for Dislocated Shoulder

Treatment involves the following methods:

  • Non surgical treatment / Closed reduction – If there are no bone fractures or other damages besides dislocation, a closed reduction is carried out. This does not involve any surgery; instead, the arm bone is manoeuvred back to its socket under sedation or by using muscle relaxants or an anaesthetic.
  • Surgery – If the shoulder is not stable or if there are other fractures or damages involving ligaments, blood vessels or nerves, a surgery will have to be done.

Whatever the choice of treatment, the joint will have to be immobilized using a sling, or a special splint, once the treatment is over. Pain medications will be administered to keep you comfortable while you heal.

Once the splint or sling is removed, and your shoulder has begun to heal well, you will be advised to do exercises to strengthen your shoulder, and restore the range of motion and stability. Simple exercises will be recommended at first and gradually move on to more complex ones.

Treatment for Dislocated Shoulder

Most people heal well and regain full shoulder function within weeks of the injury. However, the chances for a re-dislocation are high once you have had a shoulder dislocation. It is important to follow a regimen of rest and physical therapy and not begin normal activity too soon, in order to minimize the chances of re-dislocation.


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