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).
When you have a dislocated shoulder, it means the entire ball is out of the socket.
When you have a partly dislocated shoulder, it means only part of the ball is out of the socket. This is called a shoulder subluxation.
Shoulder dislocation - aftercare; Shoulder subluxation - aftercare; Shoulder reduction - aftercare
You most likely dislocated your shoulder from a 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. It is very hard to move your arm. You may also have:
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 use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Your doctor will:
After your shoulder has healed for 2 to 4 weeks, you will be referred for physical therapy.
Do not return to activities that place too much stress on your shoulder joint without asking your doctor 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 to 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 doctor if:
Horn AE, Ufberg JW. Management of common dislocations. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Roberts & Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 49.
Leggin BG, Gaunt BW, Schaffer MA. Rehabilitation of Shoulder instability. Skirven TM, ed. In: Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: ElsevierMosby; 2011:chap 92.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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