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Shoulder Dislocation

(En español, presione aquí)

 What is a shoulder dislocation?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I take care of myself?

Shoulder Dislocation: Illustration
Shoulder Dislocation: IllustrationClick here to view a full size picture.

What is a shoulder dislocation?

A shoulder dislocation means that the bones in your shoulder have moved out of place so that the joint no longer works properly. The dislocation can put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in your shoulder and arm and damage them. When your shoulder is dislocated, you may also have broken bones.

The healing process may take 4 to 12 weeks, depending on your injury. With proper healing, you should regain full movement of your shoulder.

What is the cause?

A shoulder dislocation can be caused by a fall onto your hand or your shoulder, by twisting your upper arm, or if your arm is forced into an awkward position. It may also be caused by weak or loose ligaments that you were born with. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect one bone to another. Other members of your family may have the same problem.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You will have X-rays.

How is it treated?

A dislocated shoulder needs treatment right away to prevent permanent damage to the nerves and blood vessels.

Your healthcare provider will put the bones back in the right position. You may need to have a local or general anesthetic to keep you from feeling pain when this is done. Your healthcare provider will place your shoulder and arm in a type of sling called a shoulder immobilizer. It keeps your arm next to your body and stops you from moving your shoulder. You will wear the immobilizer for 2 to 3 weeks. You may start rehabilitation exercises during this time or after you are no longer wearing the immobilizer.

In some cases, surgery may be needed. If your shoulder joint dislocates often, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to tighten the ligaments that hold the joint together.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

Ask your provider:

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

healthinformatics info


DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 3rd ed. 2009.

Greene, Walter B., M.D., Griffin, Letha Y. (Ed), Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed. Amer Academy of Orthopaedic. 2010.

Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 6th ed, 2012.

Seade, L. Edward. Shoulder Dislocation. Medscape Reference. Updated Oct 3, 2012. Web. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/93323-overview.

Welsh, Scott. Shoulder Dislocation Surgery. Medscape Reference. Updated Sep 24, 2012. Web. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1261802-overview.

Wilson, Sharon R. Shoulder Dislocation in Emergency Medicine. Medscape Reference. Updated Oct 7, 2011. Web. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/823843-overview.

Related Topics

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Subluxation

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Last Modified: 2014-09-25

Last Reviewed: 2014-09-25

Website Updated: August 2015

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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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