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The 411 on Dislocated Shoulders: Causes, Signs, and Treatments

From putting on a shirt and jacket to throwing a ball and picking up your child, your shoulder joints do a lot of things. Because of this excessive use, the shoulder joint is susceptible to various injuries. A dislocation, for instance, can cause immobility and pain of the shoulder. While surprising to learn, shoulders account for an estimated 50 percent of all joint dislocations, so the problem is quite common.

If you or a loved one have a possible dislocated shoulder, this guide and a medical professional will help you understand the signs, causes, and treatment options.


Knowing if you have dislocated your shoulder is key to receiving proper treatment. Even though everyone is different, most people who have dislocated a shoulder joint will experience the following symptoms:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Difficulty moving the shoulder and arm
  • Sensation that arm is out of place
  • Swelling around shoulder joint
  • Weakness/numbness of shoulder and arm
  • Spasms in arm muscles

The above symptoms do not necessarily mean you have dislocated your shoulder joint. However, further testing will be necessary to determine the cause of your discomfort and joint immobility.


Before you can understand the cause of your shoulder dislocation, you need to understand the anatomy of this crucial joint.

The shoulder consists of three bones: the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. The bones work like a ball and socket, lining up so your arm can move into numerous positions with ease.

Unfortunately, certain incidents can cause the ball to dislocate from the socket, reducing the shoulder joint’s ability to move freely.

Extreme force to the shoulder or arm in general can lead to a dislocated shoulder joint. Or, excess use of the shoulder joint/arm can increase your risk of a dislocation.

A dislocated shoulder is a common sport’s injury. If you play contact sports, such as hockey, football, or even basketball, you may experience force that dislocates the shoulder joint. Also, if you use your shoulder joint to pitch or throw, the repetitive movement or excess wear and tear on the joint and connecting ligaments could lead to a dislocation.

Other types of incidents that cause force to the shoulder and arm could also dislocate the joint. If you were involved in an automobile accident or fell, you could dislocate your shoulder joint.


If you have dislocated your shoulder, immobilize it as best as you can until a doctor can evaluate you. Sit down comfortably, and rest a pillow between your chest and arm to stabilize the shoulder joint.

For pain relief, consider taking an over-the-counter ibuprofen. Or, apply an ice pack directly to the affected shoulder for a few minutes at a time. The ice will numb the pain while reducing swelling and inflammation of the shoulder joint and connecting tissues.

Once the doctor confirms your shoulder joint has been dislocated, they may attempt to manipulate it back into a normal position. This procedure is known as reducing the shoulder.

Repositioning the shoulder so it pops back into its socket can induce some fear and panic in patients. Try to remain calm, since anxiety will only cause the muscles to stiffen up, making the procedure more uncomfortable than it needs to be.

Most patients who have a dislocated shoulder will need to wear a sling for a few weeks to support the shoulder joint. In severe cases where the shoulder and connecting ligaments have damage, surgery may be necessary.

A dislocated shoulder may not be a life-threatening issue, but it does require proper understanding and care. For more information on diagnosing and treating a dislocated shoulder, contact Premier Urgent Care Centers of California, Inc., today.

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