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:
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
- 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
- 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.