A dislocation occurs when a bone is pulled or pushed out of place (out of its normal relationship to the other bones that make up a joint). This can happen in joints such as the kneecap, hip, finger, elbow, or shoulder.

A dislocation may be caused by a direct blow to the joint, a fall, or a sudden twisting movement. Everyday activities may cause this injury if a person has unstable joints. A dislocation in a young child may be caused by abuse.

A dislocation can be a problem even if the bone pops back into place.

  • Soft tissues in or around a joint (such as ligaments, tendons, muscles, cartilage, and the joint capsule) may stretch or tear.
  • Nerves and blood vessels may be damaged by the injury.
  • A piece of bone at the base of the joint may break off and end up inside the joint or cause a fracture that extends into the joint.


What are the symptoms of a dislocated shoulder?

You could have pain, swelling, or numbness in your arm. You might have trouble moving your arm. You might notice that your arm hangs at a different angle or that your arm looks out of place at the shoulder.


How is a dislocated shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam. The doctor will also ask how you hurt your shoulder. You might be asked to describe your pain or other problems you have with your shoulder. You will likely have an X-ray to find out if your shoulder is out of place.


How is a dislocated shoulder treated?

Your doctor will put your shoulder back into place. This may be done in the hospital or your doctor's office. Your arm will then be placed in a sling to keep it from moving while it heals.

You will likely have physical therapy. It will help you get back motion and strength in your injured shoulder.

You might need surgery to repair any tissue or nerve damage. Surgery is more likely to be needed if your shoulder keeps coming out of place.

Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.


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