Published: Sept. 26, 2011
Updated: Mar. 20, 2012
Shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of the arm bone (humerus) loses contact with the socket of the shoulder blade (scapula).
A sudden impact, fall, or sports-related injury can cause shoulder dislocation. The shoulder is forced upward and backward, dislocating the shoulder from its socket.
Anterior shoulder dislocations are the most common. These occur when the top of the humerus is sits in front of the shoulder blade. Posterior dislocations -- when the top of the humerus is behind the shoulder blade -- are unusual and seen after injuries such as electrocution or after seizure.
Dislocated shoulder symptoms include:
Often, shoulder dislocation can cause nerve damage and torn ligaments or tendons.
A doctor's physical examination of the shoulder and shoulder joint is key to diagnosing a dislocated shoulder. It is important to tell your doctor how you sustained your injury and whether you have a history of shoulder dislocation.
X-ray imaging may also be necessary to determine if there is fracture of the shoulder joint.
The most common dislocated shoulder treatment is called a closed reduction. In this procedure, your doctor will place the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) back into the joint socket. This does not require surgery, and the severe pain associated with the dislocated shoulder is typically relieved immediately once the humerus is back into place.
Other dislocated shoulder treatments include the use of a sling to keep the shoulder immobilized. Anti-inflammatory pain medicine may be prescribed to control residual discomfort or shoulder pain.
If your doctor finds that there is damage to nerves, tendons, or ligaments following a severe dislocation, dislocated shoulder surgery may be required.
If shoulder dislocation becomes a chronic, reoccurring condition, your doctor may recommend physical therapy or the use of a brace.
Duke offers dislocated shoulder treatments at locations convenient to Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Watch an educational video about shoulder dislocations and dislocated shoulder treatments.