I Think My Shoulder Is Dislocated. What Should I Do?

I Think My Shoulder Is Dislocated. What Should I Do?

The shoulder is the most mobile and flexible joint, making it essential in daily activities and sports play. But the flexibility also makes it quite vulnerable to dislocation. In fact, the shoulders are the most dislocated joint in the body

Dislocation means that the upper arm bone has popped out of its socket. Dislocation causes intense pain, visible deformity, swelling or bruising, and immobility at the joint. 

If you think you’ve dislocated your shoulder, get medical help immediately. At Silicon Valley Orthopaedics, located in Fremont, California, the medical team consisting of George Thabit, III, MD, Nic Gay, MD, Masi Reynolds, DO, and April Mancuso, MD, can quickly address a dislocated shoulder. If you dislocate outside of our office hours, seek urgent or emergency care.

Silicon Valley Orthopaedics can also provide follow-up care and more complex treatments, like surgery, which is sometimes required to repair a dislocated shoulder. In most cases, though, a dislocated shoulder heals, and you regain full use within a few weeks.

Here’s what to know about shoulder dislocation and how we can help.

Immediate actions when you suspect shoulder dislocation

When you experience symptoms of a shoulder dislocation, seek medical care immediately. That might be at our office or if you’re not nearby or it’s after hours, at an urgent care or emergency room. 

As you wait for medical help, avoid moving the joint. Craft a sling or splint to stabilize the joint where it is. Don’t try to move it back into place on your own. You risk damaging muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves in the area. 

Apply ice to help ease swelling and pain. 

How the shoulder dislocates

Your shoulder can dislocate in many directions, including forward, downward, or backward. Dislocations may be partial or complete. A partial dislocation describes when the upper arm bone is only partly out of the shoulder socket. 

Although the shoulder is vulnerable to dislocation, it’s not easy to do so. If the shoulder bears strong force, like a sudden blow or extreme twisting, it may dislocate. 

Sports injuries, trauma — such as a car accident — or falls can lead to dislocation. While anyone can dislocate their shoulder, the injury most often affects teens and young adults who play contact sports. 

Treating a dislocated shoulder

When treating a dislocated shoulder, our team may perform some gentle maneuvers to coax the shoulder bones back into the correct position. You’ll likely receive a sedative or muscle relaxer before this closed reduction treatment to reduce pain. Once the shoulder is back in place, the pain should subside. 

After a closed reduction, we ask you to wear a sling for a few weeks to keep the shoulder stable. Pain medications help ease any pain, and physical therapy helps you regain range of motion and strength in the affected joint.

We may recommend shoulder surgery if you have weak ligaments. People who experience repeated shoulder dislocations and continue to experience the injury despite attempts to strengthen and rehabilitate the joint may also require surgery. Surgery reduces the risk of re-injury. 

If you have symptoms of a dislocated shoulder or have just had one treated, contact Silicon Valley Orthopaedics immediately for immediate or follow-up treatment. Call or use this website to schedule your visit.


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