Shoulder Dislocation



Causes may be:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A direct blow to the shoulder, such as from a motor vehicle accident
  • Forceful throwing, lifting, or hitting
  • Force applied to an outstretched arm, such as in a football tackle

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Prior shoulder dislocation
  • Playing contact sports such as football, wrestling, and hockey
  • Health problems that result in loose joints, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Poor muscle tone



The main problem is severe pain in the shoulder. Other problems may be:

  • Changes in the way the shoulder looks
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Numbness and tingling around the shoulder or in the arm or fingers
  • A shoulder that feels weak and unstable
  • Not being able to move the shoulder


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. Images of the shoulder may be taken with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan



It may take 12 to 16 weeks to fully heal. The goals of treatment are to put the shoulder back into place and to manage symptoms.

The doctor will move the head of the humerus back into the shoulder socket. Medicine will be given to decrease pain. Recovery treatment may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and using cold or warm compresses
  • A sling or shoulder immobilizer to keep the shoulder in place as it heals
  • Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion

Surgery is rarely needed when this problem happens the first time. It may be needed in a person whose shoulder repeatedly dislocates.


This injury is due to an accident. These are hard to prevent.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.