Shoulder Dislocation



Shoulder dislocation may be caused by:

  • 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 shoulder dislocation are:

  • Prior shoulder dislocation
  • Playing contact sports like 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.

Pictures of the shoulder may be taken. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan



It can take 3 to 4 months to fully heal. The goal of treatment is to put the bone back in place to prevent long term problems.

Putting the Bone Back in Place

The bone will need to be put back into place so it will heal properly. The doctor will do this by carefully moving the bone and using tension to align it. Anesthesia will be given to help manage pain.

Surgery may be needed in people who have had more than one shoulder dislocation.


Support can include:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A sling to keep the shoulder in place as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion


Most shoulder dislocations are due to accidents and cannot be prevented.

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.