The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. This means the round top of your arm bone (the “ball”) fits into the groove in your shoulder blade (the “socket”).
You most likely dislocated your shoulder froma sports injury or accident, such as a fall.
You have likely injured (stretched or torn) some of the muscles, tendons (tissues that connect muscle to bone), or ligaments (tissues that connect bone to bone) of the shoulder joint. All of these tissues help keep your arm in place.
Having a dislocated shoulder is very painful, and it will be very hard to move your arm. You may also have some swelling and bruising to your shoulder, and you may have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or fingers.
If this is the first time you dislocated your shoulder, you will probably not need surgery.
In the emergency room, your arm was placed back (relocated or reduced) into your shoulder socket.
You will have a greater chance of dislocating your shoulder again. With each injury, it takes less force to do this.
If your shoulder continues to partly or fully dislocate in the future, you may need surgery to repair or tighten the ligaments that hold the bones in your shoulder joint together.
For pain, you can take a type of medicine called NSAIDs. You do not need a prescription for these.
You may also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain relief. If you have liver disease, talk with your health care provider before using it.
Do not take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or by your health care provider.
Your health care provider will:
After your shoulder has healed for 2 - 4 weeks, you will be referred to physical therapy.
Do not return to activities that place too much stress on your shoulder joint without asking your health care provider about them first. These activities include most sports activities using your arms, gardening, heavy lifting, or even reaching above shoulder level.
Most people can return to normal activity in 4 - 6 months.
See a bone doctor (orthopedist) in a week or less after your shoulder joint is put back into place. This doctor will check the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your shoulder.
Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:
Shoulder dislocation - aftercare; Shoulder subluxation - aftercare; Shoulder reduction - aftercare
Shoulder dislocation. In: Buttaravoli: Minor Emergencies. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 131.
Leggin BG, Gaunt BW, Schaffer MA. Rehabilitation of Shoulder instability. Skirven TM, ed. In: Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 92.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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