Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is a common injury in which the upper arm bone (humerus) comes out of the shoulder blade’s (scapula) socket. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma to the shoulder, such as falls, car accidents, or sports injuries. It can also occur due to hypermobility or laxity of the shoulder joint. Shoulder dislocations can be classified as either partial or complete. In a partial dislocation (also known as a subluxation), the humerus bone is only partially out of the socket. In a complete dislocation, the bone is entirely out of the socket.

Causes of Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is usually caused by a traumatic injury, such as a fall or a blow to the shoulder that forces the upper arm bone out of its socket. It can also be caused by repetitive overhead motions, such as those performed in sports like swimming, tennis, or baseball. In some cases, shoulder dislocation can also occur due to a congenital abnormality or as a complication of other medical conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation

The signs and symptoms of shoulder dislocation can include:

  • Severe pain in the shoulder
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Inability to move the arm
  • Deformity or an abnormal appearance of the shoulder
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm or hand
  • Weakness in the affected arm
  • A popping or tearing sound at the time of injury

If there is nerve or blood vessel damage, there may be additional symptoms like loss of sensation, change in color, or changes in the pulse.

Treatment for Shoulder Dislocation

Physiotherapy plays an important role in the treatment of shoulder dislocation. The primary goal of physiotherapy treatment is to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and restore strength and mobility to the affected shoulder joint. The treatment may vary depending on the severity and cause of the dislocation, but commonly includes the following:

Immobilization: After the shoulder dislocation, the affected arm may be immobilized using a sling or brace to prevent further damage and promote healing.

Cold Therapy: Application of cold therapy, such as ice or a cold pack, can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Exercises: Once the pain and swelling have decreased, your physiotherapist may prescribe exercises to help improve the range of motion, strength, and stability of the shoulder joint. These exercises may include gentle stretching, resistance training, and stabilization exercises.

Manual Therapy: Manual therapy techniques, such as massage and joint mobilization, can help improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Electrotherapy: Techniques like ultrasound, TENS, and interferential therapy may be used to help manage pain and improve healing.

Education and Lifestyle Modification: Your physiotherapist may also provide advice on proper posture, ergonomic modifications, and lifestyle changes that can help prevent future shoulder dislocations.

It is important to note that the treatment plan may vary depending on individual factors such as age, overall health, and the severity of the shoulder dislocation. It is best to consult a qualified physiotherapist who can develop a customized treatment plan for your specific needs.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about shoulder dislocation please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Nguyen, T., & Hertel, J. (2018). Effectiveness of Early Rehabilitation on Range of Motion, Strength, and Laxity in People With Acute Shoulder Dislocation: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine

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