A dislocated shoulder is an injury in which your upper arm bone pops out of the cup-shaped socket that's part of your shoulder blade. A dislocated shoulder is a more extensive injury than a separated shoulder, which involves damage to ligaments of the joint where the top of your shoulder blade meets the end of your collarbone.
If you suspect a dislocated shoulder, seek prompt medical attention. Most people regain full shoulder function within a few weeks after experiencing a dislocated shoulder. However, once you've had a dislocated shoulder your joint may become unstable and be prone to repeat dislocations.
Dislocated shoulder signs and symptoms may include:
Shoulder dislocation may also cause numbness, weakness or tingling near the injury, such as in your neck or down your arm. The muscles in your shoulder may spasm from the disruption, often increasing the intensity of your pain.
When to see a doctor
While you're waiting for medical attention:
A dislocation is an injury to your joint in which the ends of your bones are forced from their normal positions. Your shoulder, which is a ball-and-socket joint, is a common site for dislocation. The ...
The shoulder joint is the most frequently dislocated joint of the body. Because it can move in many directions, your shoulder can dislocate forward, backward or downward, completely or partially. In addition, fibrous tissue that joins the bones of your shoulder (ligaments) can be stretched or torn, often complicating the dislocation.
When your shoulder dislocates, a strong force, such as a sudden blow to your shoulder, pulls the bones in your shoulder out of place (dislocation). Extreme rotation of your shoulder joint can pop the ball of your upper arm bone (humerus) out of your shoulder socket (glenoid), which is part of your shoulder blade (scapula). Partial dislocation (subluxation) — in which your upper arm bone is partially in and partially out of your shoulder socket — also may occur.
A dislocated shoulder may be caused by:
Certain factors play a role in your chances of experiencing a shoulder dislocation. You're more likely to dislocate your shoulder if:
Complications of a dislocated shoulder may include:
If ligaments or tendons in your shoulder have been stretched or torn, or if nerves or blood vessels surrounding your shoulder joint have been damaged, you may need surgery to repair these tissues.
Preparing for your appointment
Depending on the severity of the injury, your family doctor or the emergency room physician may recommend that you or your child be examined by an orthopedic surgeon.
What you can do
For a dislocated shoulder, some basic questions to ask include:
What to expect from your doctor
The doctor may also ask you several questions, such as:
Tests and diagnosis
Besides physically examining your shoulder, your doctor may order the following tests:
Treatments and drugs
Dislocated shoulder treatment may involve:
If you've experienced a fairly simple shoulder dislocation without major nerve or tissue damage, your shoulder joint likely will return to a near-normal or fully normal condition. But trying to resume activity too soon after shoulder dislocation may cause you to injure your shoulder joint or to dislocate it again.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Try these steps to help ease discomfort and encourage healing after being treated for a dislocated shoulder:
Once your injury heals and you have good range of motion in your shoulder, continue exercising. Daily shoulder stretches and a balanced shoulder-strengthening program can help prevent a recurrence of dislocation. Your doctor or a physical therapist can help you plan an appropriate exercise routine.
To help prevent a dislocated shoulder:
Once you've dislocated your shoulder joint, you may be more susceptible to future shoulder dislocations. To avoid a recurrence, follow the specific strength and stability exercises that you and your doctor have discussed for your injury.
Last Updated: 2011-08-31
© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use