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Shoulder Dislocation


A shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) pops out of the shallow shoulder socket of the scapula (called the glenoid). This can happen when a strong force pulls the shoulder upward or outward, or from an extreme external rotation of the humerus. Dislocation can be full or partial:


Shoulder Dislocation

Causes & Triggers

You can dislocate a shoulder if you fall on your arm, or get hit hard. It can happen during a road accident. You can dislocate a shoulder playing football or volleyball. Skiiers and gymnasts also have a higher risk.

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A direct blow to the shoulder area, such as in automobile accident
  • Forceful throwing, lifting, or hitting
  • Force applied to an outstretched arm, such as in a football tackle

Signs & Symptoms

A dislocated shoulder causes pain. You may not be able to move your arm. Your shoulder may swell or bruise. And you may see a bump under your skin where the ball has shifted.

  • Pain, often severe
  • Instability and weakness in the shoulder area
  • Inability to move the shoulder
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Shoulder contour appears abnormal
  • Numbness and tingling around the shoulder or in the arm or fingers

Tips & Treatment

A doctor resets the joint by moving your arm into different positions to put the ball back in place. Medication and an arm splint or a sling may help the shoulder heal. Physical therapy may help. If you have a severe dislocation, or if it happens a lot, you may need surgery. Your healthcare provider can create a care plan that is right for you.

  • Closed reduction
  • Immobilization
  • Rest
  • Ice and heat
  • Rehabilitation exercises
  • Pain medications
  • Surgery—Surgery is rarely needed for a first time dislocation. It is often needed for a shoulder that dislocates repeatedly.

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