Dislocated Shoulder

What is a Dislocated Shoulder?

When your upper arm bone pops out of the socket that’s part of your shoulder blade, the shoulder becomes dislocated. This happens from a blow or a fall, like an injury during a contact sport or a car accident, or a fall from a ladder.

Most dislocations happen through the front of the shoulder. Once you’ve dislocated your shoulder, you’re more likely to do it again, especially if you’re young and active.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder?

  • Your arm looks out-of-place or deformed.
  • Intense pain.
  • Swelling or bruising.
  • Numbness, weakness or tingling near the injury, like in your neck or down your arm.
  • Muscles spasms in your shoulder.

Get medical care right away if you think you or someone else has a dislocated shoulder.

What Are the Treatments for a Dislocated Shoulder?

Treatment for a dislocated shoulder starts with putting the shoulder bones back into their normal place. The doctor can do this by:

  • Moving the shoulder bones to put them back in place, which relieves the pain right away. The doctor will give you a muscle relaxant or sedative before doing this.
  • Surgery. If your shoulder is weak, or you’ve had repeated dislocations, you need surgery to put the shoulder back in place. If your nerves or blood vessels are damaged, you’ll also need surgery. But this is rare.

After putting the shoulder bones back in place, treatment includes:

  • A splint or sling to keep the shoulder from moving.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
      • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
      • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.
    • Muscle relaxers for muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy after the splint or sling is removed to restore the shoulder’s range of motion, strength, and stability.