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How Is a Dislocated Shoulder Treated?


Dislocated Shoulders In Soccer

The shoulder joint is remarkable when it comes to movement. Up, down, forward, backward, and even around. It’s the most mobile joint in the entire body!


However, this tremendous range of motion comes with one disadvantage: an increased risk of shoulder dislocation.


What Is a Dislocated Shoulder?

Dislocated shoulder graphic

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, with the head of the humerus (ball) fitting nicely into the socket within the shoulder blade. A dislocated shoulder occurs when the ball is forced out of the socket by a strong force.


This commonly occurs in sports involving direct hits (football or hockey) or hard falls (volleyball, soccer, or skiing). Over-rotation of the shoulder or traumatic accidents can also cause dislocation.


There are three different ways that your shoulder can dislocate:

  1. Anterior: the ball dislocates forward. Over 95% of dislocations are anterior.

  2. Posterior: the ball dislocates backward.

  3. Inferior: the ball dislocates downward.

Your shoulder can dislocate completely or partially. Complete shoulder dislocations occur when the ball is entirely forced out of the socket. Partial shoulder dislocations, called subluxations, happen when the ball partially pops out of the socket.


How Can I Tell if I Dislocated My Shoulder?

Dislocated shoulder on person

A dislocated shoulder is very painful, and it’s usually quite apparent that something is out of place.


Common symptoms include:

  • Intense pain in the shoulder

  • A popping sensation

  • Visibly displaced shoulder

  • Difficulty moving your arm

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Numbness

  • Weakness


Do I Need to See a Doctor for a Dislocated Shoulder?

Dislocated shoulder x-ray

All shoulder dislocations should be seen by an orthopaedic specialist immediately. Trying to force your shoulder back into place on your own can cause additional injuries.


Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery specialize in traumatic shoulder injuries.


To diagnose your injury, Dr. Joseph will ask how it happened, if you’ve previously dislocated your shoulder, and perform a physical exam. He may also order an X-ray to confirm the dislocation and see if there are any broken bones or further damage to the shoulder.


How Is a Dislocated Shoulder Treated?


The majority of shoulder dislocations can be treated with conservative methods.


Dr. Joseph will first perform a reduction, gently shifting the shoulder joint back into its correct position. He may recommend a sedative during this procedure, depending on the type of dislocation.


Although the reduction will provide some immediate pain relief, this is only the first step in the process. To promote healing and ensure a full recovery, Dr. Joseph may also recommend:

  • Immobilizing the shoulder by wearing a sling

  • Applying ice several times a day

  • Over-the-counter pain medications

  • Physical therapy to restore mobility and strengthen the shoulder muscles

Recovery time will depend on the extent of the injury. Most people will feel improvement within a few weeks, but achieving full range of motion and strength can take 1-3 months.


If you’ve repeatedly dislocated your shoulder or have suffered damage to the surrounding soft tissues, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery to provide long-term stability and prevent future dislocations.


Expert Treatment for Shoulder Dislocations in Eagle and Summit County


Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery are known for their skill and expertise in diagnosing and treating shoulder injuries.


If you are experiencing symptoms of a dislocated shoulder, or have questions about repeated dislocations, call 970-476-7200 to make an appointment or submit a request using Team Joseph’s online form.




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