A dislocation of the shoulder joint happens when the bones making up your shoulder joint are moved apart so that the joint no longer functions.
Your shoulder is made up of two bones: the ball (humerus) and the socket (part of your shoulder blade). When the ball part of the joint is dislocated in front of the socket, it is called an anterior dislocation. When it is dislocated behind the socket, it is called a posterior dislocation. In severe cases, ligaments, tendons, and nerves also can be stretched and injured.
The most common type of dislocation is an anterior dislocation. It can be caused by a fall onto your outstretched hand or your shoulder. It may happen if your arm is forced into an awkward position.
A posterior dislocation may occur as a result of a powerful direct blow to the front of your shoulder.
You also may be genetically susceptible to a dislocation, particularly if your shoulder goes out often or easily. Other members of your family may have the same problem.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom is pain in your shoulder and upper arm that is made worse by movement.
How is it diagnosed?
During your physical exam, he or she will check for:
Shoulder tenderness and weakness
Numbness in the shoulder area, arm, or hand
Pain when you move your shoulder or loss of normal shoulder movement
Shoulder instability and deformity
You will have an X-ray of the joint and surrounding areas to confirm the dislocation and check for broken bones.
What is the treatment?
Go to your healthcare provider's office or the hospital emergency room right away if your shoulder becomes dislocated. Put ice on your shoulder. Cold reduces swelling by controlling internal bleeding and the buildup of fluids in and around the injured area.
Your provider will reposition the head or ball of the joint back into the joint socket. This can sometimes be done without an anesthetic if it is done within a few minutes after the dislocation occurs. After the repositioning, your shoulder will be X-rayed to make sure it is in the correct position. You will keep your shoulder and arm in the immobilizer for 2 to 3 weeks. You may begin shoulder rehabilitation exercises during this time or after you are no longer wearing the immobilizer.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Return to your activities will be determined by how soon your shoulder recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury has occurred. The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury.