Shoulder Dislocations: What Are They and What Should I Do?

We take our bodies for granted daily. We use our bodies for simple and difficult tasks with barely any thought to what would we do if parts of our bodies just stopped working. This is exactly what happens when you dislocate your shoulder joint. Our shoulder joints are the most commonly dislocated joints in our body. Other joints include our hips, wrists, ankles, and neck.


How do shoulder joints get dislocated?
The blessing and curse of our shoulder joints are that they have the largest range of motion, meaning they can be moved and stretched in more angles and directions than our other joints. But this also makes our shoulder joints the easiest to be dislocated because of all the possible injuries and accidents that could occur during these numerous movements. A dislocation could happen from climbing, carrying, lifting, swinging, or any other strenuous movement or stretch of the arm.

It is important to note that there are two types of dislocations. There is a partial dislocation where the head of the upper arm bone is partially removed from the socket. A complete dislocation means exactly that. The head of your upper arm bone has completely been removed from the socket. The type of dislocation you have will determine your symptoms and the treatments required to heal.

How do I know if I’ve dislocated my shoulder joint?
A dislocated shoulder joint can range in severity from minor to serious. Some symptoms to look for would be swelling in the shoulder joint area, numbness in the shoulder or upper arm, weakness in your shoulder or arm when attempting to lift it or tense the muscles, bruising in the upper arm and shoulder joint area, and pain. Sometimes when a dislocation occurs, the dislocation can tear ligaments or tendons in the shoulder area which can damage nerves in the area. If any of these symptoms are noted after using your arm or shoulder, please consult a physician immediately. The expediency of professional medical treatment for a dislocated joint will increase your chances of successfully recovering from the injury.

What treatment options are available?
Your physician will determine the best course of action to take in treating your dislocated shoulder joint based on its severity. If the dislocation is minor, a surgery will not be required (see page Your doctor can simply pop your shoulder joint back into place in a procedure called closed reduction. This treatment is not without its aftercare duties, however. Your physician may choose to immobilize your arm in a sling for 4 to 6 weeks. You will have to ice the shoulder daily to keep the swelling down and you will need to have plenty of rest. After enough healing time, physical rehabilitation will be prescribed by your physician to help strengthen your shoulder muscles and restore range of motion.

Shoulder dislocations are common, but not life-threatening. Timely medical treatment is the best way to make a full recovery. Remain cautious in your daily activities. Our bodies can heal through almost anything, but they can be injured so easily by carelessness and overexertion.