What to Do About a Dislocated Shoulder

Jan 05, 2024
What to Do About a Dislocated Shoulder
Our bodies move thanks to a complicated relationship between our muscles, bones, and joints working in unison. Injuries like dislocated shoulders can compromise that movement, but help is available to treat it.

Joints are a vital part of movement: They work together with the bones and muscles to move just about every part of your body. There are joints that don’t move (fibrous joints) and a ton more that do, including cartilaginous and synovial (hinge, ball-and-socket, condyloid, pivot, planar, and saddle joints) — but they’re all in league with each other to enable you to make both basic and complicated movements. 

Your shoulder is a type of ball-and-socket joint that helps a great deal with upper body movement, and even if the joint isn’t severely damaged, any condition that compromises it will make using your arms more difficult.

A dislocated shoulder isn't considered to be a serious injury, but it’s painful, awkward, and still requires proper treatment to prevent further damage. Let’s look at how to care for this type of injury by examining the facts about this dislocation, what often causes it, and how it should be managed and treated.

Residents of the Fort Worth, Texas area looking for help managing a dislocated shoulder or other joint injury can find help with Dr. Joseph Daniels and his medical team at Southwest Orthopedic Associates.

Facts about a dislocated shoulder

Joints function by the ligaments, tendons, and muscles keeping everything in place for normal movement, and a dislocation means that one or more bones are out of place in the joint. 

In the case of your shoulder, it means the humerus bone in your upper arm is out of the socket of your shoulder blade. This can result in either a subluxation (partial dislocation) or a luxation (complete dislocation). Despite being the most common joint to go through this injury, it’s actually fairly rare: Only 10 per 100,000 people in the United States experience it.

Signs and causes of a dislocated shoulder

Sometimes this injury will be visible, meaning a simple look in the mirror will show you that a disfigured or unexplained bulge in your shoulder confirms the problem. In many cases, however, other problems like swelling, pain, muscle spasms, discoloration, and discomfort when moving the affected arm are more common signs of a dislocation.

Frequent reasons for dealing with this condition include falls, impact from sports injuries, and car accidents, indicating that athletes, men between 15-30 years old, and people with a history of this injury are more likely to deal with it. Common complications of this injury include bone fractures, sprains, strains, nerve damage, and blood vessel damage.

Management and treatment

Treatment options vary with the severity of your injury, and come in nonsurgical and surgical methods:


Realigning the shoulder is often the first step, as getting it back into the joint will make managing the injury significantly easier. This often reduces a lot of pain, and is often followed by immobilizing the joint in a sling to prevent further damage. 

Icing to reduce swelling and pain, taking pain medications (NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen), and engaging in physical rehabilitation are all ways to help you recover.


If there is a history of dislocations, the shoulder can’t be placed back into the joint, or there is muscle or bone damage in the joint, surgical intervention is likely necessary. 

There’s a range of procedures that can be done to handle different problems, such as repairing ligaments, filling gaps in your bone, or rebuilding bone. Regardless of which surgery is performed, you’ll need some physical therapy to get things back into normal motion.

Dislocated shoulders can be painful and unpleasant to deal with, but treatment is available, and we’re here to help. Make an appointment with Dr. Daniels and his team at Southwest Orthopedic Associates today to get relief from the pain.