Dislocated shoulder

Your shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in your body. It can turn flexibly in many directions. Therefore, it is the joint which is more likely to get dislocated. On an average, 25% of shoulder dislocations have associated fractures.

What happens in shoulder dislocation?

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The ball (the round top of your arm bone) fits into the groove in your shoulder blade called the socket.

In the case of shoulder dislocation, the entire ball is moved away from the socket. If the dislocation is partial, then only a part of the ball is out of your socket. This is termed as ‘shoulder subluxation.’


A dislocated shoulder may the result of an unbalanced impact on the joint. It may happen as a result of a sports injury, fall or by experiencing a harsh hit to the affected area. Once your shoulder joint dislocates, it’s more likely to dislocate again in the future.

Tips for children

  • Teach the children safe behaviors
  • Watch and supervise your children while they are playing
  • Put gates on the staircases to prevent your children from falling
  • Ensure that your home is childproof and safe from objects that make the children fall

When to call a doctor?

  • You must call your doctor if you have signs of fever, if you notice any discoloration near the joint, if you experience swelling or pain in the arm, shoulder or hand that gets worse timely.

Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for shoulder dislocation include:

Age: mostly older persons are at greater risk for shoulder dislocations due to the lack of mobility. Children are also at greater risk for joint dislocations, because of unsupervised play. Anyone can be a victim of joint dislocations due to falls or some other types of trauma.


Bruising, swelling weakness, and numbness are the common symptoms that are presented after a shoulder dislocation.

In severe cases, dislocation may tear ligaments or tendons in the shoulder or even damage the nerves.


It could be difficult to determine if your bone is broken or dislocated. Your doctor would examine the affected area. He/she will check for the circulation to the affected area, and ensures if there is any deformity, or whether there is any breakage to the skin.

If your doctor finds that there is dislocation or break, he or she would order for an X-ray. To evaluate your bone more specifically, your doctor would order for more advanced tests such as MRI; these tools help your doctor understand what is going on in the joint or near the bone that s involved.

The initial level of treatment for any dislocation would be R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Following this treatment, the dislocated joint would get back to the normal state. In case if your joint doesn’t turn back to normal state, your doctor may use one of the following treatment options,

Repositioning: This would be painful, your doctor will replace back the dislocated joint, and before doing so, you would require a good dose of anesthesia.
Immobilization: your doctor might ask you to wear a splint or cast for several weeks to retain the replaced joint in its position. This will help prevent the joint from stress and strain due to movements. Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor would keep your joint immobile.
Medication: after your joint returns to normal, most of the pain must vanish away. However, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever or a muscle relaxant if you still experience pain.
Surgery: your doctor would recommend you for shoulder dislocation surgery if there is any evidence of nerve damage or blood vessel damage, or if your doctor is unable to replace back your dislocated joint.
Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation helps in dislocated shoulder recovery. After repositioning you’re joint to normal, or after removing the cast or splint, your doctors will advice a rehabilitation plan that is appropriate for you. The main aim of rehabilitation is to improve the joint’s strength and restore its range of motion.

Practicing safe behavior helps in the prevention of a joint dislocation. Follow the below tips to reduce the risk of joint dislocations:

  • Avoid the use of throw rugs
  • Move away the electrical cords off the floor
  • Use handrails when climbing up or down the stairs
  • Make sure that a first aid kit is available in the area