Shoulder Dislocations

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint where the ball is the upper arm (head of the humerus) and the glenoid cavity of the shoulder blade (scapula) works like a socket. The dislocation happens when the ball or head of the shoulder slips from its socket. The dislocation happens majorly at the shoulder and is the cause of severe pain in the shoulder. The dislocation can also cause other injuries too. Many cases of shoulder joint dislocations associated with fracture.

Causes of shoulder bone dislocation

  • Any direct trauma/injury of the shoulder such as accidents
  • Fall on an extended arm or outstretched shoulder
  • Any injury during playing any sports
  • Any condition like seizures, rotator cuff tear/injury
  • Electric shock may cause a shoulder dislocation
  • Shoulder joint looseness causes shoulder dislocation
  • A forceful, Unexpected, or sudden pull of the arm

Types of shoulder bone dislocation

  • Anterior dislocation or forward slipping: When your head/ball of the humerus (upper arm) is slipped anterior or move forward is called anterior shoulder dislocation. Anterior dislocation is the most common type of shoulder bone dislocation.
  • Posterior dislocation or backward/behind slipping: When your head/ball of the humerus (upper arm) is slipped posterior or move backward is called posterior shoulder dislocation. Posterior dislocation is not that common.
  • Inferior dislocation or downward slipping: When your head/ball of the humerus (upper arm) is slipped or pushed downwards from its socket. Inferior dislocation rarely occurs.

Dislocated shoulder Symptoms

  • Shoulder pain, severe in intensity and sometimes unbearable
  • Restricted shoulder joint movement
  • Swelling
  • Change in the shoulder joint contour
  • Shoulder joint dislocation is easily identifiable by touch
  • Discoloration around the shoulder joint

Diagnosis of the shoulder dislocation

  • Physical examination by your doctor
  • X-ray shows the shoulder dislocation and other bony injuries
  • MRI or CT scan can be performed to be more specific and if there are soft tissue injuries


  • Closed reduction: Sometimes shoulder joint dislocations are corrected or relocated to their normal place manually with some techniques (maneuvers). Your doctor can use sedative or muscle relaxant or according to the swelling and intensity of pain. Corrective manipulation seldom requires general anesthesia

Repositioning of the shoulder joint to its original position immediately relieves pain.

  • Arm support: An arm and shoulder support (sling/splint) is used by your doctor to prevent shoulder movement for at least 3 weeks.
  • Treatment: Muscle relaxants and pain killers are commonly prescribed medicine by your doctor.
  • Intervention: When the condition is serious and surrounding structures are also damaged (ligament tear or bone fracture, damage to the blood vessels or nerves), in such a condition surgery becomes imperative.

Physiotherapy: When the shoulder joint is healed and shoulder support is removed then gradually physiotherapy exercises are required to regain the range of motion of the shoulder joint as it is the most movable joint, Strengthening exercises of the shoulder muscles will stabilize the joint and support the joint.

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